Kayo Dot, Astronoid stretch out heavy music in totally opposite directions on excellent albums

Kayo Dot

Kayo Dot

Doing different things in metal and heavy music in general should be cause for excitement. It is for me, anyway, as there are a lot of bands out there doing the same or really similar things. But you know how the rest of this goes. While some folks embrace the music and appreciate artists taking different approaches, you have people whining like heavy music is being destroyed.

We have two bands today—one a veteran act constantly changing its stripes; the other a newer band getting a nice amount of attention—with new albums that you might not expect from the extreme music field. Feelings are bound to be mixed when approaching either one, just because conventional thinking locks people’s brains and feelings into impenetrable boxes. Those who don’t mind doing something a little off center might find two of the year’s more interesting, exciting records that could open up new worlds and ideas to you.

FR68_12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007]We start off with Kayo Dot, the long-running band helmed by the brilliant Toby Driver that has been twisted and contorting their own world over the past 13 years. It’s amazing it’s only been that long, because it feels like this band has decades’ worth of material and opuses to their credit, and over their run, they’ve changed so many times. None of their records are alike. “Blue Lambency Downward” and “Hubardo” sound nothing alike, for example. Same with “Gamma Knife” and “Coyote,” my favorite Kayo Dot album. And for their latest record “Plastic House on Base of Sky,” they’ve gone even further into the deep end, with a record built mostly by synthesizers of all shapes, sizes, and eras, and Driver’s surprisingly smooth, soulful singing. To be clear, this record, their eighth, is the least metal thing in their catalog. Instead, it’s an icy, futuristic, robotic dreamscape that’ll alter your mind, which should make up for any lack of head-bashing fury.

This cloudy transmission starts with “Amalie’s Theme” that’s built on heavy beds of murky synth, beats kicking around, and Driver’s breathy singing, which sounds different than it ever has. The song has a heavy haze that feels like a bizarre dream, and that blends into “All the Pain in All the Wide World” that sounds like early ’80s Rush at the start. A moody synth rock vibe travels through the song’s bloodstream, with Driver later struggling to communicate and to hear, lamenting, “You missed the point, you’re just not listening.” That could be a statement for anyone who can’t grasp this record. “Magnetism” is dark and has vivid strikes, with a nighttime feel flowing through the track and a hypnotic ambiance flooding the senses. Guitars enter the mix, with the beats getting more aggressive, sheets of synth storming down, and a massive, disorienting front stretching its muscles and eventually disappearing into a whir. “Rings of Earth” unfurls slowly, with a mesmerizing tempo, smooth singing that would soothe if they didn’t feel so alien, and an agitated finish that leaves welts. Closer “Brittle Urchin” is a sharp curveball, with a spacious, jazzy approach, beats striking, guitars churning, and Driver’s floating words jabbing, “I could never last.” Another unexpected turn from one hell of a great band.

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

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

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

Astronoid

Astronoid

Astronoid seemed to blasted to earth out of nowhere, but truth be told, but they’re been around for a few years now, with a couple of EPs to their credit. They’ve grabbed a lot of attention the past couple weeks with the release of their excellent debut record “Air,” yet another landmark piece this year from Blood Music (maybe you’ve heard of their box sets?). This Boston-based band already is making people feel sour because of their—gasp!—melodies, hooks, and the fact that the high-pitched singing sounds like nothing what you’d expect from a metal band playing raucous, driving post-black metal. The best comparison I heard was if Mew played black metal, or, if you will, if Deafheaven had clean singing. Or if Cynic got nasty again. I find this band enthralling and refreshing, and as a person unabashedly unafraid of a good hook, I get lost in this shit easily. This is a damn good record, one that’s bound to gain added traction and life as more people hear it.

The record gets off to an inauspicious start, as “Incandescent” takes its time to stretch its wings, piling on layers of sound before the song gets amped up. Then, there’s a stunning one-two punch starting with “Up and Atom,” a helium-frenzied song that bursts with colors in the air, with the ridiculously high vocals over the chorus infecting you, and the rest of the track rumbling with a fury. It’s followed by “Resin,” a black metal-infused cut with a surging chorus packed with gigantic hooks, explosive melodies, and a level of hugeness not often displayed by bands in the extreme sector of music. “Violence” is dreary, with alien-like vocals, and it’s followed by “Homesick,” another huge one with a blistering chorus and moments that sound like Coheed and Cambria’s early work. You’ve heard this already about Astronoid, but they have a smothering, raucous time unleashing “Tin Foil Hats,” with a smashing chorus that was guitarist/vocalist Brett Boland wailing, “The clouds will part the sky, sun shines on my face!” It’s hardly grim. It’s damn-near jubilant. The title track is airy and dreamy, but it has its moments of serious grit. “Obsolete” has some awesome exploratory guitar work and pokes at comparisons to Cynic, while closer “Trail of Sulfur” is packed with passion and energy, as the song bursts gloriously, wrapping guitars surges and heavy breezes over Boland’s declaration, “All that we have, we leave behind.” This is a smashing, downright euphoric first album, and it’s damn sure to give you a head rush again and again.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.blood-music.com/store/store.html

For more on the label, go here: http://www.blood-music.com/

Kayo Dot is a band that has captivated me for years now, and I’m certainly not shocked by the radical shift into spacey trance that they unleash on “Plastic House on Base Sky.” As for Astronoid, they’re one of metal’s most exciting, albeit unconventional, new bands, and their possibilities seem limitless. I relish having two albums so radically different from each other and so much else of what’s going on out there, and the more artists we can have challenging the status quo, the better.

Meat Mead Metal’s Wrestlemania panel picks all of the winners, losers, peeing/drink/pizza times

Mania mainMake no mistake, this is a metal site heavily informed by pro wrestling. It’s all there. I don’t expect that everyone who reads this site has taken note of wrestling history anecdotes that get worked into reviews, the use of power moves to describe crushing riffs, or any strange note I decide to add for no other reason than to entertain myself. That actually makes sense with today’s special feature.

Sunday is Wrestlemania 32, the annual ritual of wrestling fans gathering and watching a 175-hour show over too many beers and pizza. After kicking off March 31, 1985, Wrestlemania has become the spring gathering point where all the biggest stars in the WWE come together and hold their big blowout event. Stories are supposed to begin and end there, major matches are to take place, and huge feuds come to a massive conclusion. Too bad this year’s event doesn’t hold much of that. Not all WWE’s fault. They’ve suffered a legendary rash of injuries that completely undid a card they had built months ago, and they’ve had to scramble to put together a whole new lineup. It didn’t always go well. Neither has the build to this show. But no matter. We’re wrestling fans through the highs and lows, and come Sunday, most of us will be pretty pumped (as will be the 234,798 WWE announces as in attendance at Dallas’ AT&T Stadium).

There are a whole slew of people from the metal world who also love wrestling. I’ve had myriad conversations with people over the years about wrestling, be that over social media during an event, or just while hanging out over beverages. This year, we assembled a few folks from the metal industry to talk about their relationships with wrestling and to weigh in on the matches this weekend. So I’ll shut up and introduce you to our panel:

Peter Browne: Owner of the awesome Broken Limbs Recordings, who are about to put out a massive one-two punch of records from Wode and Palace of Worms, and who have released great stuff from Immortal Bird, Cara Neir, Ramlord, and more.

Vinny Karpuszka: If you’re into brutal and/or technical death metal, Vinny has you covered. He’s one the driving forces behind Willowtip Records, based near Pittsburgh. Over the years, the label has put out record from bands as varied as Gigan, Circle of Dead Children, Dim Mak, Magrudergrind, and a ton more.

John Kerr: Multi-instrumentalist and appreciator of many beers, Kerr will unleash his debut Marsh Dweller album this coming summer (on Eihwaz/Bindrune Recordings). He also is a member of Vit, Noltem (EP out on Northern Silence), and Seidr, as well as being obsessed with calling people “soft bitches.”

Sam Panico: Sam has heavy involvement in both the wrestling and metal camps. He has wrestled as Shirley Doe for years now both here in Pittsburgh and around the country and world (he’s worked in Japan, you jerks) and now front doom maulers CANT, whose 2015 Demo is out on Ancient Future.

John Pettibone: John’s been pounding out heavy sounds for years now, and he’s currently fronting the massive Heiress, who just released their great third record “Made Wrong” (on The Mylene Sheath) that we just loved. He’s also bruised hearing with Himsa and Undertow.

What first got you interested in pro wrestling? What were your first experiences?

Browne: I’m from a small area back home (Ireland), and to see these larger-than-life characters doing these colossal things was mesmerizing. My brother used to go next door to my uncle’s house because he had the sports channel, and he’d stay up all night watching it. I remember my brother going over, videotaping it, and then re-watching it with me the next day. I can’t specifically remember my first instance of wrestling, but I hold the memories of my uncle’s house and being able to watch it there very fondly.

Karpuszka: I was probably 3 or 4 years old when I saw my first pro wrestling match.  More than likely my dad taped it off of TV for me to watch. It was a steel cage match, back when WWF used the blue steel cage instead of the chain-link they use now. I think it was Hulk Hogan vs King Kong Bundy, but I could be wrong. I remember at the time that there were a bunch of people in our living room watching it, and everyone was hootin’ and hollerin’ over the action. That’s what got me into it. As time went on, my dad would tape the various pay-per-views for me to watch, and THAT is how I saw some classic early ’90s matches: Bret Hart vs Roddy Piper for the IC title, Big Boss Man vs The Mountie where the loser spent the night in jail, Hogan vs Warrior, and on and on.

Kerr: Nintendo 64.  I used to go to my cousin’s house a lot during the summer, and we’d inevitably play No Mercy for hours on end.  Then we’d beg my aunt to let us watch PPVs.  I actually wasn’t totally into wrestling itself but was more of a breast-obsessed pubescent preteen that wanted to stare at girls.  I used to have a cut-out of a lingerie ad in my pocket because this was the age of text-based internet and scrambled porn.  Professional wrestling was the closest thing I got to knowing what a boob felt like.

Panico: My brother and I weren’t allowed to watch wrestling but watched it anyways. The first match I can remember was the Strongbows versus Mr. Fuji/Mr. Saito for the tag team titles, where the Japanese team took the belts back. We watched it for 2-3 years covertly, then finally my whole family started watching it in 1980, a few years before the Rock & Wrestling boom.

John Pettibone: My dad has been in the cable television business since 1970, so my entire childhood we had extended cable in our house and I remember a Saturday morning turning on a channel showing NWA and was instantly hooked. Funk vs Rhodes – lots of color and carnage.  Then comes along Flair and flips the game.

What do you think of the modern state of wrestling? Is it as exciting for you now as it’s ever been? Is it not? Please explain.

Browne: It’s in pretty poor shape. At times it’s as exciting as the old days, but it’s few and far between. NXT does live up to the hype, and I hope they don’t blur the lines between the to rosters since they’ve been bringing up new wrestlers quite frequently. There are a lot of great athletic guys and girls who haven’t been able to shine, mostly because of some executive slight or personal issues. Natalya has been torn down, Cody Rhodes lost his momentum, Cesaro and Ziggler are a given. There should be some negotiating with Barrett. He’s a keeper, and he was really starting to have fun in his Bad News Barrett role, just like Big E is having a blast in the New Day.

Karpuszka: I think it’s in a good spot and it has the potential to better. There’s something out there for every level of fan. I mean, you have WWE, which caters to casual and kid fans but can also entertain the hardcore fan from time to time. TNA does that on a smaller level, I guess. Then you have Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling , which are both WAY more about wrestling and the in-ring action. I can’t forget to mention Pro Wrestling Guerilla as well, and there are a whole bunch of other indy promotions out there too.

But it all pales in comparison to what was going on in the mid ’90s through the early 2000s.  I was a teenager when the Monday Night War and the Attitude Era was at its peak, and in my opinion, pro wrestling will most likely never reach that level of awesomeness ever again.

Kerr: So after I found out what boobs feel like, I genuinely started to enjoy pro wrestling.  HOWEVER, I dropped back from it for a while during the canonical “it’s all fake anyway” phase because humans naturally long to feel like we’re above something.  I honestly didn’t *really* get back into it until last year’s Wrestlemania.  I was living in a house with Nate and Zack from Vit, and we decided to all get drunk on a Sunday and watch some wrestling.  The RKO, Rusev’s tank, Slimey Seth.  After all that shit, I remember thinking, “Oh yeah, THIS is why wrestling is cool”.

HAVING SAID THAT.  Raw is boring as fuck and shouldn’t be three hours long.  I don’t give a shit about 99% of matches.  NXT is cool because there’s no bullshit filler.  Lucha Underground is cool as shit. Kayfabe News is so great that it justifies how shitty the WWE is.

Panico: It’s both the least I’ve ever cared and the most I’ve ever cared. I watched the Aztec Warfare episode of Lucha Underground Saturday and cared enough about the Dragon Lee vs. Kamataichi series to send it to a bunch of people. I’ve been wrestling since 1995 and still wrestle every 2 weeks or so, so I must love it on some level. Eddy Guerrero said to me once, “Your friends, your family, your woman, they can all fuck you over. But wrestling will always love you.” I guess he was right, but it’s getting real close, dude.

John Pettibone: I absolutely love it! With the slow burn and rise of the indies the last 15 years, the product is so exciting! At times I can’t keep up.  Being able to witness so much incredible talent grow and now excel at the top of chain has been mind blowing! Also, the comparisons to being in a touring band makes me feel a kinship to the struggles and strides they face daily.

What are you most looking forward to Wrestlemania weekend?

Browne: The buildup on the WWE network, social media buzz, etc. Twitter is fantastic when you keep up with the hashtags; there are some real gems on there. Wrestlemania is also an opportunity for the dark horses to emerge, and that’s something no publication or expert can predict. Surprise guests are always fun.

Karpuszka: The debut of Shinsuke Nakamura.  He’s one of my favorite wrestlers right now, and I couldn’t believe it when he signed with WWE. I love the “strong style” he uses, and he’s a really charismatic guy.  He and Zayn should put on one hell of a match at the NXT event.

Kerr: Watching Brian drink too many Palo Santos and yell at a TV screen that can’t understand him.

Panico: Hanging out with the same people I’ve watched it with for 20 some years. It’s like the Super Bowl – more of a get-together than matches I actually give a shit about.

John Pettibone: The King of Strong Style!!! (EDITOR’S NOTE: Fuck and yes. The debut of Shinsuke Nakamura at NXT Takeover Dallas!)

Mania 32Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon:

Browne: Undertaker. He’s too protected to lose twice, especially to someone who isn’t Brock Lesnar. However, I’m sure there will be some interference or something shady going on so both guys come out looking strong. With Shane’s very real and successful business ventures, is it feasible for him to actually have time to appear on Raw every Monday? I kind of hope so.

Karpuszka: This is such a strange match-up.  I’m looking forward to it, but I keep thinking, WTF?  Shane McMahon vs Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell?  Really? After some crazy and possibly botched spots, I think Shane wins to keep the storyline moving.

Kerr: I really hope the Undertaker retires after this. He’s like 5,000 years old, and I can’t imagine him beating up anyone.  Which is why I think professional wrestling, if not just the WWE, should bring back a tragically underutilized gimmick: SUPER POWERS.  Have the Undertaker literally kill Shane and then bring him back to life or something. Fuck it.  As long as big-ass stunts are still involved, it doesn’t matter how realistic any of this stuff is.  Do you really believe a dude is getting punched just because they stomp on the mat to make a comical Batman-esque pow sound?  You might as well go all the way.

Panico: This is why wrestling today sucks. You need an archetype and an insight for a feud to reach people’s hearts. Stone Cold vs. McMahon worked because we all hate our boss, and we all wish we could kick his ass when he fucks us over. This match is an undead MMA biker locker room leader versus the son of a billionaire with no clear cut good guy, bad guy, motivation or person to get behind. And at its worst, it admits that WWE sucks and needs to change. Prediction: Nothing changes.

John Pettibone: (Fantasy booking – CM Punk walkout with Shane) Shane-O coast to coast, Taker goes out on his shield.

WWE World Championship Match – Triple H (CHAMPION) vs Roman Reigns:

Browne: Triple H because Triple H. Reigns has no shot at getting over ever unless he keeps that underdog thing going. The boos keep increasing at every show, but it’ll be disappointing to see this angle dragged out yet again. Something fresh needs to happen with the Authority, and something fresh definitely has to happen with Reigns’ character. He’s been booked more strongly than Ambrose, but the fans want what the fans want.

Karpuszka: Reigns will win and get booed, and Vince McMahon will wonder why.  Reigns has been forced down everyone’s throats, and “smarks” recognize this and hate it.  WWE is trying really hard to get Reigns over, and maybe they do it with this match. We’ll see.

Kerr: I do not give a shit about Roman Reigns.  Every time I see him I think, “Wait, what is Robert Trujillo from Metallica doing on Raw?”  Actually that would be pretty cool.  Wrestling is metal as fuck (look what site we’re writing this for!) so they should have real metal bands at events or during promos.  And none of that bullshit Sirius XM metal either.  We should have fat disgusting death metal bands like Disma or Demilich. But anyway, yeah, Roman Reigns isn’t going to be a thing. Sorry Vince. But I think this can be salvaged with one drastic move: THE RETURN OF DONALD TRUMP TO THE WORLD OF PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING.  In the greatest twist in both WWE and world history, it is revealed that Trump’s entire presidential campaign has actually been a fundraiser to purchase the WWE.  Trump assembles Vince, Roman Reigns, and everyone else I don’t give a shit about at the ring.  He grabs the mic, ready to speak, but then pauses.  He contemplates before dropping the mic without uttering a word and looks toward the big screen, where two words are revealed as the crowd chants along: YOU’RE FIRED.  As Trump exits the arena, an advertisement is simulcast across the entire country promising to Make Wrestling Great Again.

Panico: Who is the good guy here? Is it the guy a multimillion dollar corporation pushed down your throat? Or the son-in-law of the guy you are supposed to hate who buries talent on Monday and raises them back up on Wednesday, like some kind of wrestling King of Kings? Does anyone even have the Money in the Bank suitcase for this, so I can come out seeing a different person win? Man. I don’t know. Prediction: I fall asleep.

John Pettibone: Roman gets booed, Rock shows up, RR turns hot heel on Rock. Rollins shows up and curb stomps HHH off top rope and takes his belt back.

WWE Women’s Title Match – Charlotte (CHAMPION) vs Becky Lynch vs Sasha Banks:

Browne: Sasha Banks (technically). She’s the fan favorite right now (going by crowd reaction), and Becky hasn’t been booked strongly enough pre-Wrestlemania. Charlotte has been champion for a while and is starting to get some heat, which may see her take the belt home to further antagonize the rest of the Divas. So, let’s go with Ric Flair cheating Sasha out of a win and Charlotte retaining.

Karpuszka: Charlotte retains with help from The Nature Boy.

Kerr: I actually met Sasha Banks when I did stagehand work for NXT a while back, and she was nice really nice, so I want her to win everything. That’s it.

Panico: If it doesn’t happen in Japan or Mexico, I generally do not and will not care about women’s matches. Unless Japanese talent is involved, so I’ll enjoy seeing Asuka kick Bayley in the face. For all I’ve heard about a Diva’s Revolution, I have not seen it. Again – show me, don’t tell me. Prediction: I get a beer. Again.

John Pettibone:  Sasha is my boss and Eddy Guerrero frog splashes for the win.

Three-on-Four Tag Team Match – New Day vs League of Nations:

Browne: I Love The New Day! They haven’t been defined as heels or faces, but we all know the crowd loves them. So it’s important to keep the division exciting and give them a bit of an underdog disadvantage. I have a feeling they will keep the actual match short and deprive us of some solid wrestling, but at least the intro will be exciting. EAT YOUR BOOTY-O’S.

Karpuszka: Going with New Day.

Kerr: The New Day is the best thing to happen to the WWE in probably a decade.  I honestly don’t even want them to wrestle.  I just want them to come out on the mic and talk shit for the entirety of Wrestlemania.  Also LoN should get the hell out of here with their stupid comic book hero coalition name and start feeling the power of positivity.

Panico: I don’t get the New Day at all. It feels like a too-cute gimmick with no legs against a xenophobic ’80s gimmick. The real winner here is Alberto Del Rio, who gets a fat paycheck for not doing anywhere near what he’d have to do in Lucha Underground or AAA. Prediction: I get a beer.

John Pettibone: League of Stiff! I do love E’s suicide dives and splashes on end of apron though. Bring in Enzo and Cass fella…

WWE Intercontinental Title Ladder Match – Kevin Owens (CHAMPION) vs Sami Zayn vs The Miz vs Dolph Ziggler vs Sin Cara vs Zack Ryder vs Stardust:

Browne: This match has the potential to be extremely entertaining. A ladder match alone on paper is highly intriguing. Kevin Owens should win this match. He’s a good heel and is doing well carrying the belt. He’s also hilarious when he’s messing with Byron (Saxton). I’m sure it will come down to Owens and Zayn having a staredown in the middle of the ring with the feud continuing to a rematch at the next PPV.

Karpuszka: This is the match that could steal the show.  I can see a lot of crazy and brutal spots happening.  Owens and Zayn had some crazy ladder matches back when they were in ROH together, and there’s some great chemistry there. So I’m looking at those two to do some intense stuff.  Owens leaves as champion.

Kerr: I’m going for either Stardust or Dolph Ziggler.  Stardust because I truly want to believe that he’s an interdimensional space demon or whatever, and Dolph Ziggler because he has one of the best ring names I’ve ever heard.  Kevin Owens is just fat BUT he can talk mad shit so he’s got that going for him.  Ultimately I hope Stardust takes it because, like I said, wrestling needs to get MORE ridiculous.

Panico: Kevin Owens did a promo saying he wanted to steal the show like Steamboat vs. Savage. Then they added five albatrosses (albatrai?) to this match and Sami Zayn, who my wife likes because he comes out to ska. I have no idea why I should care about one single person in this match. Prediction: Kevin Owens.

John Pettibone: Did you ever think a Steen/Generico ladder match would ever happen at Mania? Stoked!!! The rest are just collateral damage! But Ryder getting his moment is cool.

WWE US Title Match – Kalisto (CHAMPION) vs Ryback:

Browne: Not feeling this match at all, but I think Kalisto will win this. He’s been getting the rough end of the storyline, so it’s seeming like Kalisto will prevail. Praying that this is the end of this storyline. It’s not helping Ryback, and it’s not really helping Kalisto as a singles wrestler either. Does he talk? Expect Sin Cara to make some kind of appearance.

Karpuszka: A big clash of styles here, which could make for a good match.  I like Kalisto in this one.

Kerr: I do not give a shit.

Panico: I can guarantee that Ryback fucking loves Pantera. It seems like he needs the push better than Kalisto. And a big guy always beats a little guy in the land of the giants. Prediction: Ryback.

John Pettibone: Kalisto is gonna get the stiff kicked into him… Poor guy.

AJ Styles vs Chris Jericho:

Browne: AJ Styles 100%. Typical feud which is done to make the other competitor look good. It will still be decent to watch, but predictable. Jericho has nothing to lose,m and Styles doesn’t have a very long shelf life at his age, although he is a terrific athlete. We’ll see some awesome spots, and hopefully it won’t be a rushed match.

Karpuszka: Chris Jericho is now known for working with the “younger” talent and putting them over, but Styles isn’t exactly a young dude. Still going with AJ.

Kerr: I give even less of a shit.

Panico: Remember when AJ Styles came out at the Rumble and people lost their fucking minds? No one in WWE creative heard that like you did. This will be a good match, but the special aura that it could have had is gone. Maybe Chris Jericho will borrow one of those feathered masks that Bruce Dickinson wears. Why? Because I’d think it was funny. Prediction: AJ Styles.

John Pettibone: Bullet Club invasion turn… Styles Clash off the top

Dean Ambrose vs Brock Lesnar:

Browne: This is probably my favorite match on the bill. I love Brock Lesnar, and Dean Ambrose is a badass. Dean Ambrose for the win, but I think The Wyatts will have a part to play. So will those weapons! It would be cool to have some veterans there giving Dean a hand. Brock will always come out looking like the monster he is, and I pray Paul Heyman gets a good amount of mic time.

Karpuszka: This should be a fun match.  After some extreme ultra-violence, I’m going with Brock as the winner.

Kerr: I’ve always liked Dean Ambrose, because I think it’s cool as hell when wrestlers wear jeans. However, there isn’t one person in the WWE roster that I believe could actually beat Brock Lesnar (UNLESS THEY HAVE SUPER POWERS).  They built him up for so long to be the Final Boss of Wrestling, and they’ve had to think of every contrived plot point they could just to make it so he isn’t the reigning champion forever.

Panico: So Terry Funk gave Dean Ambrose a chainsaw. The finish? They cut off Brock’s head, and he kills him anyways, reattaches his head and pisses all over the corpse of Ambrose, who can’t throw a punch to save his ass. Basically: imagine a Cannibal Corpse cover. That’s what I want this match to be. It will not live up to my expectations. Prediction: Brock Lesnar.

John Pettibone: Dean channeling his inner Moxley! This will be war! I need blood!  Lights go out, Wyatts revenge!

Team Lana vs Team Total Divas:

Browne: Team Total Divas most likely. There’s not a whole lot to this match, but I figure they’ll get the victory so this feud can develop as it’s fairly fresh. And knowing creative, they’ll squeeze as many matches out of it as they can, especially with Lana involved. There will be no snack time with her decked out in wrestling gear, believe me.

Karpuszka: Time to refresh my drink and grab a snack.

Kerr: Lana because I want the term “Divas” to go away forever.

Panico: I can’t think of anything I care about less. It’d be like a Rob Zombie/Korn tour. Oh, they’re doing that, too? That’s how much I care. Everyone hates that girl with bright red hair because she can’t wrestle. Isn’t that being a good heel in 2016?

John Pettibone: Trainwreck.

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal:

Browne: I think the Big Show will win this one. His monologue about how meaningful a second win would be seemed really sincere and heartfelt, and who knows? We can’t count out the fact that his body has been through years of bumps, and this is a way to bow out gracefully. Other than that, this is just a chance for everyone on the roster without a match to get some f​ace time.

Karpuszka: Some NXT guys might get into the mix here, and that’ll be cool.  No idea who will win, but they’ll likely get no push, and everyone will forget who won this match in a couple weeks.

Kerr: All participants attempt to drink as much beer as Andre the Giant would drink in one sitting. Whoever doesn’t die wins. (EDITOR’S NOTE: This makes me think of a wrestling version of “Who Poop Last?”)

Panico: I have a better chance of getting over as a result of this match as anyone in it. And I’ll be sitting on a couch drinking. So imagine how that will be. They’ve already proved that you can win this match, and it doesn’t mean shit twice. Here’s to wrestling working in threes. PREDICTION: Whoever is fattest.

John Pettibone: Social Outcasts for the fun of it

Usos vs The Dudleys:

Browne: Not that interested in this match. Both groups aren’t doing anything particularly special these days. I think the Usos will pull out the win, especially to a large crowd. Tables WILL be used. I could see some kind of guest appearance during this one with the Dudleys calling out the Usos legendary (and very large) family. This will be pretty dead if nothing special happens.

Karpuszka: Two pure tag teams squaring off.  The Dudleys have nothing more to prove in their careers, so I see them putting the Usos over. Hoping there is a flaming table spot.

Kerr: This is still a thing?

Panico: This is still going on? I mean, for fuck’s sake, have the Dudleys put them through a table and win. If anyone is ordering the PPV for this match, I’ll pay for it, because I believe NO ONE is. PREDICTION: We order food during this.

John Pettibone: Bully turn and goes on solo mission.

For more on Wrestlemania, go here: http://www.wwe.com/shows/wrestlemania

 

Blood Ceremony’s cauldron of vintage evil and ritual wonder spills over on ‘Lord of Misrule’

Ester SegarraWhen a sound grows in popularity and everyone, it seems, catches on and tries their hand at it, the backlash is inevitable. So, too, is the saturation level. But that doesn’t mean there is no merit to a particular sound. It’s just that you might have to sort out the mediocre from the very good, a worthy endeavor if you have the time or interest.

Yes, the occult and vintage path is so heavily trudged now that the grass is dead, and every new person who happens upon the area brings mud into the house. My inbox is littered with these bands, but when I see the words Blood Ceremony in a subject line, I push everything aside to hear what concoctions they’ve dreamt up this time. See, this Toronto-based band has been at it long before the recent wave of newcomers trying to feed off a sound. Over the course of four records, Blood Ceremony have mastered the art of creating music that certainly sounds decades old but always is genuine and thought-provoking. The themes of ritual, bizarre religious history, the devil, evil, and more are wrapped into their alluring music, and on their excellent fourth record “Lord of Misrule,” they bury themselves even more in shadows of the past that have come to roost in the present. In fact, ever since this music arrived, I’ve visited over and over again, constantly infected by their playing and the lore contained within.

Blood Ceremony coverBlood Ceremony have been with us for a decade now, and their first record landed in 2008 with their stunning self-titled debut. From there, they’ve returned with regularity, always upping the ante. “Living With the Ancients” arrived in 2011 (“The Great God Pan” often plays on loop in my brain), with their great third record “The Eldritch Dark” turning up in 2013. That record was their most accessible to date, one that seemed to hint they were heading down a path where their material would grow more encompassing to a wider audience. Yet “Lord of Misrule” is a curveball, an album that might have sounded just right in sound following their debut. The band–vocalist/keyboardist/flautist Alia O’Brien, guitarist Sean Kennedy, bassist Lucas Gade, drummer Michael Carrillo–seemed to dust off the oldest texts they could find to draw their fans even deeper into the crypt and their dark, alluring magic. It’s a great sounding album, and it’s one that, with each visit, opens itself up more and draws you right into its heart.

The record starts with the longest cut “The Devil’s Widow,” a track that is ominous at its start, and then it begins punching away. O’Brien’s flute flutters away, and her singing sounds raspier than usual, which occurs often on this record. The simple chorus is one that makes callbacks easier and natural and sticks right in your brain. Really great start. “Loreley” starts with keys pumping, deeper vocals, and a chorus that delves into folk territory. Soft keys trickle in and mesmerize, while warm soloing heats up the song and keeps it bruising to its finish. “The Rogue’s Lot” is a strong one, with doom striking leading the way, and a fuzzy, middle-paced path, with O’Brien wondering, “How do the living raise the dead?” This song has one of the two best choruses on the record, with the call of, “It’s the time and it’s the weather,” hammering home the urgency. The song kicks up dust at the end, with the flute flying and the chorus delivered ever faster. The title track owns the other great chorus, with O’Brien warning, “It’s four o’clock!” and setting the stage for the oncoming darkness and the beasts contained within. The track is burly, really infectious, and bathes in a psychedelic bath in its waning moments.

“Half Moon Street” has a country rock swing to it at the start, something that adeptly sets up this dusty rocker that, once again, should have no problem grabbing your attention and keeping it. The second half of the song hits a new gear, with the guitar playing ruling and the flutes swelling up again. “The Weird of Finistere” is a moody ballad, with O’Brien weaving the tale, noticing, “It’s shadow, my own.” She simply sings the title over and over on the chorus, an easy but effective method, and one draped in emotion. “Flower Phantoms” is like no Blood Ceremony song before it, and possibly after it. It bursts with ’60s girl group power, feeling psychedelically overflowing, a little poppy, and later is totally scorched by the guitar work. This is a really cool diversion to somewhere else, and Blood Ceremony nail it. “Old Fires” lets riffs chug, fiery vocals echo, and some killer doom stomping do its damage and reassert the band’s power. There is something of a Deep Purple edge to this as well, with the soloing and keyboards absolutely burning up. Closer “Things Present, Things Past” is a closing ballad that has all the makings of a 1970s English folk song with its lush acoustics and hazy vocals. Parts of the song seem purposely woozy, which is a nice touch, and as the song progresses, it continues to warp. The final moments lead into a dark tunnel, with the sounds fading, only to come out of the other side and finally dissolve.

Blood Ceremony’s reign has been a fun, intoxicating one, and they leave us guessing with each release. “Lord of Misrule” may stymie anyone who just came on board for “Eldritch,” but for those of us with them since the start, it’s a really satisfying turn even further into black shadows. Their kingdom may be flooded with followers trying to do the same things, but Blood Ceremony remain the rulers, the darkest, most interesting band going that feeds off the vintage feast of evil.

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

To buy the album go here: http://www.riseaboverecords.com/shop/

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

Lake of Violet’s debut recording mixes hypnotic calm into gloom with ‘The Startling Testimony…’

Lake of VioletI’ve being trying to calm down a lot more lately. It’s not a matter of life and death–though in the midst of a panic crisis, I often forget that–but it’s something that as I and my frayed nerves get older needs to happen a lot more. Because of that, I’m trying to gravitate a little more toward music that can help me achieve that state instead of constantly putting me on edge.

Luckily for me, my collection consists of plenty of music that brings down the tension and lets me breathe. One band that always is a go-to when I just need to soothe the nerves is Locrian, whose music instead makes me think of sojourns into space instead the chaos in my head. This isn’t a Locrian review. Read on, please. Another band like that, containing a member of the great Locrian, is Lake of Violet, whose first record “The Startling Testimony of Plumb Lines” is here via the always reliable Gilead Media. Calling it a metal record would be a stretch, because what’s on this six-track adventure goes much further than that. This is psychological music in a sense, a collection that can be enjoyed lying back (or trapped in the fetal position) that can put your mind into different trains of thought and allow you to breathe. If I did yoga, and I keep meaning to start, this music would be excellent soundtrack fodder for me.

Lake of Violet cover“The Startling Testimony of Plumb Lines” has its tension and darkness for sure, by its running hypnotic feel and foray into all sort of sounds (some doom, some post-rock, some ambience) creates an atmosphere that feels energetic and welcoming. Sorry if that’s not metal enough. On this recording, co-founders guitarist André Foisy (Locrian, Kwaidan) and drummer Anthony Michael Cori (of the great Cedars of Lebanon, and formerly of Minsk), along with bassist Jacob Essak (Sunsplitter), and vocalist Neil Jendon (Kwaidan, Catherine), put together songs that feel organic, off the cuff, and a result of four players tuned into each other and intent on creating an experience they and their audience could take together.

“Backwards Light” starts the record by bursting open and shining light, with hazy singing emanating, and a heavy early Pink Floyd wash to all of this. This made me think of music I’d want to hear on a gray, rainy spring day, especially as the noise boils and sets off a fog. The whole thing spreads itself out, with calming calls of, “Leave it all behind,” resonating and the sounds swimming away. “Circles in Red Drift” filters in, with a shamanistic vibe to it all, chimes chilling, and soundwaves surfacing and stinging. The song penetrates your chest cavity, boring into your body, with feedback scratching out the melodies and watery effects taking the piece underneath the surface to rest. “Dark Blue Square” has liquid trickling, acoustics rising, and deep group singing, with pokes of, “Your eyes, so cold.” This gave me an unplugged Alice in Chains feel in spots, with some electrics popping in and cool synth pulsating deep within the piece.

“Bastard and the Infinite” carries us into the record’s second half, sprawling, with singing that sounds slightly nasal (not a criticism … fuck, I love Geddy Lee, you know?), and every element taking it slowly. The track is shimmery and trance-inducing as it rolls on, as it takes on a meditative stance, with speaking voices swirling, almost as if you can read its words circling your head, and the piece bleeds out from there. “Captive Fugitive” has a calculated unfurling, with sounds wafting, hand drumming tapping inside your brain, and quiet singing pulling the message overtop. Guitars then are strummed a little more heavily, as the scene shifts, doom clouds arrive, and the record reaches its burliest point. Noise begins to scrape, space fuzz accumulates, and everything is sucked into a wormhole. The album ends with “Please Stay Longer” that begins with regal synth, acoustics plodding, and washed-out, mesmerizing singing. The bulk of the song takes on the traits of a medicine dream, with harmonized singing disorienting, each sound causing your brain to vibrate, and the track shimmering out, leaving the haze of light as the only evidence that anything was even here. Now, it’s time to wake up.

This new union is a promising one that already has a strong record to its resume with “The Startling Testimony of Plumb Lines.” Lake of Violet are perfect for pulling yourself away from the hellfire but still taking a trip that can envelop and stimulate you. This is one of the more interesting and different releases in Gilead Media’s storied catalog, and Lake of Violet is a band you want to get to know especially when your mind is demanding something to remove the massive weight.

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

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

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

Atrament spill D-beat fury, black, death metal into dark future on ‘Eternal Downfall’

AtramentWatching this current presidential campaign, it’s not inconceivable we’ll all be dead in a few years. If not dead, at least living in ruin and wondering what the hell went on the past decade or so. How did we get here? How will we climb out? WILL we climb out?

All of those morbid visions hit home on “Eternal Downfall,” the debut record from Oakland, Ca., D-beat/crust/black/death amalgamation Atrament who waste no time getting their Apocalyptic visions out front on these quaking, smothering 11 tracks. Here, the band imagines a world in which humanity is a hindrance and not a primary commodity, and that fallout from radioactive annihilation chokes out whatever is left and breathing. Really, how does that seem too far fetched considering what people are doing in these primary elections? Holy fuck, this could happen. Will Atrament bask in the fact that they were right all along? Not likely as it doesn’t appear many would survive such an onslaught. So they’d be more prophets of death rather than gloating soothsayers, and with that in mind, it’s not too late to avoid making some really, really bad decisions, right?

12inch_3mm_v92012.inddAs for Atrament, they’re just at the beginning as far as this unit goes, having formed in 2014 and only having a demo to their credit up to this point. The group is comprised of vocalist Mattia Alagna (Abstracter), guitarist James Meyer (also of Abstracter, as well as Black September), bassist Sam Carr-Prindle, and drummer Chad Gailey (Caffa, Necrot), and they blast and bruise their way through this record, with most songs clocking in at under three minutes. Their urgency and savagery are obvious and tangible, and they rip through this record, painting a picture of the void they imagine in our bleak futures. Kind of depressing, eh?

“No Beyond” begins the trauma, stomping hard, with gruff vocals bruising, the assault rollicking hard, and mucky, brutal pounding setting the pace for “Sunken Reign.” There, gurgly growls team up with muddy smothering, sinking thrash madness and outright vitriol into the mire. “Aberration” is mean and delivered deep from inside the intestines, with black metal-style guitars raining down, and a nasty storm cloud opening up and threatening to drown everyone. “Consumed” has vocals that sound based in blood, while the D-beat-style chaos ruptures veins, and the vocals take on more of a death metal style. Once that song thunders out, we’re right into “Hericide” that stampedes over everything, into sludgy terrain, grimy growls, and a flurry of fists. “Wretched Apparition” also sinks its teeth into death metal, with the song hammering, the tempo chewing bones, and after a brief injection of calm, rips into a black metal-tinged stretch.

“Rotting Twilight” is full of slowly meted-out misery drubbing punishment, and wild howls of, “Cursed to see the future!” that put you into the mentality of our tale’s unfortunate survivors. The final moments charge up the ferocity and spill into “Aeon of Suffering” that is fast, intense, and hellbent on bringing total destruction. The track absolutely obliterates, and then it’s into “World of Ash” that sets up its premise in its title and pays off the promise with speedy, crunchy playing, a strong dose of thrash, and a black, ugly sentiment. “Circle of Wolves” is punchy and threatening, with more black metal-style melodies, and a sense of total devastation so true, you practically can taste soot in your mouth. Closer “Dusk Abuse” finds a strong groove as its front end, and then it launches itself forward violently. The drums smear everything, while the guitar work goes off, infusing some classic metal glory into the mix, and letting every element burn off permanently, leaving the record in a toxic cloud of smoke.      

Atrament show a lot of promise and power on “Eternal Downfall,” and here’s hoping humanity will not have eaten itself before these guys have a chance to complete another record. The band has a great sound, hunger, and tenacity, and that shines through again and again on these 11 cuts. Shit may be getting ready to get really ugly really soon, and we’ll have Atrament here to lead us into the gutters forever.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.brokenlimbsrecordings.net/#!store/azhdm/collections/new-releases/1

Or here: http://sentientruin.com/releases/atrament-eternal-downfall

For more on the label, go here: http://www.brokenlimbsrecordings.net/

And here: http://sentientruin.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Wolvserpent stretch their cosmic chaos on expansive EP ‘Aporia:Kala:Ananta’

WolvserpentCreativity and reimagining metal have kept the genre vital and alive. Yeah, there are those people who want everything played a certain way and generally reject anything that isn’t adhering to a formula. But if everyone played by the same rules, we wouldn’t have creative advancements, and everyone would be playing the same thing.

Credit bands that are doing ambitious, daring things on the outer edges, such as Boise, Idaho, duo Wolvserpent. While not metal in the classic sense, this band certainly has shown a heaviness and darkness that warrants their inclusion in any discussion surrounding the style’s most interesting artists. Ever since taking on this moniker in 2010 (they went under the name Pussygutt for five years before that), this band has taken parts of doom, drone, black metal, and death metal and melded them with classic strings, otherworldly ambiance, and haunting atmosphere. Their tracks come off more like true compositions rather than standard metal tracks, and as they’ve grown, they’ve become more immersive and challenging as artists. They’re a personal favorite (they’re one of the highlights of 2014’s Gilead Fest), and their new EP “Aporia:Kala:Ananta” was a highly anticipated one for me.

Wolvserpent coverThat effort has arrived, and it contains one 40-minute track that demands your undivided, uninterrupted attention, and chances are they won’t have to beg for it. From moment one all the way up to the breath-taking conclusion, guitarist/vocalist Blake Green and drummer/violinist Brittany McConnell build the picture, stitching the track piece by piece and taking you on a ride that hits emotional highs and guttural lows. If you liked what they accomplished on their excellent 2013 album “Perigaea Antahkarana,” be prepared to enter the next level with this amazing band.

The track, which shares the title with the album, has a serene, slowly building first half, with more of the woodsy orchestral tones taking over, making it feel like you’re walking through a cosmic marsh. The violin cuts through and establishes a strong center point, while other colors are filled in around it. As the trail moves on, elements are added to the mix, from the drumming, to hushed growls that roll underneath the mire, to creaky noises splattering. Waves crash and solemn melodies arrive, as noises swirl and, finally, hell truly arrives.

Slow-driving doom begins to crush you, as dark clouds crowd the airspace, monstrous roars smash at the walls, and a dizzying pace sets in. There are some black metal-style melodies that stretch over the piece, drizzling down darkness while noise and drone hovers. Deliberate pounding thrashes away, while melodies begin to swell, and sounds keep charging and sprinkling as the fog gets ever thicker. A looping guitar line spirals through the midsection, surviving a gargantuan assault of drone fire, stretching its way all the way to the end, where the song seems to dissipate into the air. When the track is over, your lungs should be full of air, and your mind buzzing and pulsating after what you’ve just experienced.

Wolvserpent remain one of metal’s finest innovators and gutsy dreamers, and their work on “Aporia:Kala:Ananta” is another step forward for this gifted duo. They continue to define what’s possible in metal and heavy music, and their magical, haunting stratosphere is one in which to get lost and never want to return. This EP is an excellent chance to let go, drift off into the unknown, and sink into a journey unlike anything else you’ll get in metal or any other style of music.

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

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

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

Death Fortress’ pure domination colors black metal with war on killer debut ‘Among the Ranks…’

Death Fortress coverMetal’s always had an affinity for power, strength, and domination. You can hear that in tons of bands across various sub-genres, from doom to sludge to thrash to death. What’s wrong with feeling empowered and mighty in the face of opposition, I ask you? The answer? Absolutely nothing.

Jersey’s black metal squadron Death Fortress have no qualms with balling their fists and crushing your will to live. Their sound is straight forward and ferocious, and the feeling you get from hearing the band is not unlike what it might be like to get crushed by their boots trampling across your chest. Expect bruising, bleeding, and a whole lot of humiliation. The band’s first full-length effort “Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable” tells you this right away, and it’s not some thin statement made to make the guys sound tougher than they are. Once they plug in and begin striking, you know you’re in the middle of a psychiatric struggle, where you will pay a toll but might come out stronger for it. You can thank them later after your wounds heal.

Death Fortress are comprised of veterans of other noteworthy underground hell-breathers, with T. Warrior (Dethroned Emperor, Senobyte) on bass and vocals; J. Averserio (Abazagorath, Dethroned Emperor, Senobyte) on guitars; and S. Eldridge (Funebrarum, Abysmal Gates, Disma) on drums. Every ounce of this six-track, 38-minute crusher feels weighty, devastating, and utterly devoid of mercy. They certainly have the tenets that would make old school black metal fans quite happy, but they also power through with the audio violence that could make death and war metal devotees more than happy to walk with into battle alongside the trio of terror.

Opener “King’s Blood” starts off with dissonant interference, letting the buzz build and approach with threatening power before the track rips open and starts punishing. There’s a strong melody lurking behind the chaos, but up front we have harsh, guttural growls that sound soul-wrenching, spacious fury that makes it feel like you’re in the grips of a tornado, and delirious playing that baffles and destroys. But the bottom line is the track’s brutal underbelly, which is deep and expansive. “Arrogant Force” begins with whipping winds that could eat at your cheeks and then drums that absolutely decimate. There are strong, intelligent lead lines that inject excitement into the piece, and the vocals are absolutely gruff and monstrous, grinding away just as hard as the song around them. The final strains of the track bleed into “Fifth Season,” which takes some time to simmer before reigniting the intensity. The guitars are insane, with vicious growling blending in and upping the ante on the madness. The song pulls back a bit, letting some different colors into the space, and the track ends on an extended section of razor-sharp playing that eventually dissolves.

The title track tears open the second half of the album with a channeled assault and devastating riffs that continue the punishment. The growls are grim and evil, and they join in with the tempo that mashes everything in its wake. The song hovers like a relentless, all-day summer storm, soaking the ground and unleashing thunder that never seems to subside. Soloing emerges that is creative and brainy, but ugliness rules the day as the final moments are smoldering. “Pride of the Enslaver” dumps churning guitars, vocals that capture and suffocate, and encircling melodies that should leave you dizzy and disoriented until it burns out. Closer “Ancestor’s Call” starts firing hard from the get go, with the drums pulverizing your senses, melodic guitars shredding through the muck, and vocals that are charnel and deadly. Interestingly, some post-metal-style melodies slip in, which could be confusing if you’re expecting wall-to-wall burning. Instead, the band ends the record on a mesmerizing, haunting note that finally gives you some mercy so you can begin licking your wounds.

Death Fortress’ name can be taken pretty literally, because that’s what it feels you’re locked inside of on “Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable.” The record is a ferocious one, and if you’re in those ranks of people who think black metal’s gotten too proper and polished, you’ll enjoy hearing these guys take their blades to that whole idea. This is filled with danger and malice, and nothing good can come from this band’s agenda. Well, other than black metal getting another group of warriors here to restore its good name.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Death_Fortress/3540352232

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Anguish’s odd storytelling, wretched doom hit a high point with ‘Mountain’

AnguishMetal has had its share of great storytellers over the years, people who not only have created powerful music but whose lyrics and delivery have made up an important part of history. We’re talking people like King Diamond, Ronnie James Dio, and Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris, who doesn’t offer his takes vocally but has one hell of a singer to do that for him.

This is sort of becoming a lost art in modern metal, as songs take the form of rants, philosophical dissertations, social commentary, and personal blood-shedding. All of those have their place, quite obviously, but finding a band that can help you get lost inside their music and their words is something to behold. That’s a thing Swedish doom band Anguish have done for two records now, their latest being “Mountain.” Like on their awesome debut “Through the Archdemon’s Head,” you go on a journey with the band, one that can be punishing and enthralling at the same time. On “Mountain,” tales of fallen kings, murder, destruction, battles from the past, and even arch demons come into play, and the eight tracks on this record don’t give you the choice of sampling. You’re in for the entire ride, and you won’t be able to look away for a second.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????Vocalist J. Dee takes front and center spot with the band, and his pained wailing and, if you’ll excuse me, anguished howls drive the drama and horror behind these songs. He’s one hell of an expressive singer, reminding a bit of Tom G. Warrior from time to time, and he’s full of charisma and evil intent. Listening to him is a morbid joy. Alongside him are guitarists/bassists David and Christoffer, as well as drummer Rasmus. On this record, the band strips things back just a bit, letting their fiery doom/death-inspired chops lead the way, and this is an album that with each subsequent listen, you find yourself sucked into their world more and more.

The simply named “Intro” is the first gush of sound, chilling and trickling, bringing you into the cold by luring you there. Then “Makarian Furnace” opens into a dark, doomy world, building in a calculating manner and letting Dee’s demonic yarn-weaver voice split into the action. He sounds sick and manic at times, almost like a villain watching his world wash away, and the rest of the band delivers, cleverly inserting a cowbell at the point when things are about to erupt again. Well put together. “Stir Up the Demon” is a furious one, with a stomping assault, tremendous leads, and Dee howling the blood-stopping admission, “I murdered him, there he lies smiling.” He spits out diatribes about false loyalty, doomed kings, and other treachery, while the band hits a deadly groove and even covers some thrashy territory. “Master of Peak’s Fall” has a watery, blurry open, with strong riffs blasting the door down and maniacal storytelling keeping you engaged. There is slow-driving misery that gives way to soaring soloing, and the end is dressed in dark organs, mournful singing, and melodies that twist and turn.

“Decomposer of Planets” has a really strange first few minutes, with Dee warbling like a crazy person and the music feeling absolutely ominous. Eventually, the song really starts to chug, the narration turns to growls, and track has a thunderous, disruptive conclusion hammered home by the declaration, “Your king is dead!” “The Woven Shield” has some slick, massive basslines that move into a heavy doom crunch and Dee shouting, “I am hunted across the lands,” meaning it as a threat and without an ounce of fear. More organs spill in, giving the song a gothic feel, and the punishment comes to an abrupt end. “Void” lurches and crawls menacingly, with smashing and mashing from the band, and the song switching back and forth from moodier parts to sections that will devastate you. It’s one of the most interesting songs on the record. Closer “Snowhammer” could not be a better curtain-dropper, starting with cold, fear-invoking passages before it punches its way out and begins its attack. Dee, in his most threatening voice, shouts, “Let them be crushed, see them be bled, let them crawl in excrement!” From there, the band lets everything burn, from savage damage being meted out, to dark keys rising again, and mystical, razor-sharp guitar work leading you to the end.

Getting lost inside Anguish’s dark, twisted fantasy world for 50 minutes is tremendous fun and should fill every desire a true metal fan has inside of them. “Mountain” is heavy, ugly, glorious, wretched, and evil, and every second of this is worth poring over. This band is developing quite the track record only two albums in, and it’ll be terribly exciting to hear what blood-splattered, doomed drama they dream up next.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Anguish/175400599142558

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Godflesh reign in terror, industrial decimation with ‘A World Lit Only By Fire’

Photo by Kevin Laska

Photo by Kevin Laska

Metal is getting its old guard back. Yeah, we should strive toward the future and cultivate tomorrow’s warriors, but it’s also nice to know bands that carved enormous paths and served as influences on so many musicians–good or bad–still are here making vitals statements and reminding everyone how it’s done.

You know who I mean. Carcass last year returned with an astonishing platter that felt like their glory days returned for a victory lap. Judas Priest rose from the ashes this year with one of their best efforts in a long time. Plus, we have At the Gates first release in nearly 20 years breathing down our necks, with the initial signs of it seeming positive. And then, we have Godflesh. Like Carcass and ATG, when Justin Broadrick and C.G. Green reunited to play shows (mostly festivals and smaller tours), there wasn’t much promise for new music from the band. Then, a cover of Slaughter’s “Fuck of Dead” was released for Decibel’s Flexi Series last year. Then in June, the band offered up a pretty promising EP “Decline & Fall” that served as an appetizer for what would come later in the year, that being their brand new full-length effort “A World Lit Only By Fire,” their first full studio effort since 2001’s “Hymns.” It was an incredibly excited thing to put on our calendars back in the spring, but would the record live up to expectations? Would it be a worthy addition to a collection that already boasts stone-cold classics such as “Streetcleaner,” “Slavestate,” and “Pure”?

Godflesh coverLuckily we now have an answer, and it’s a damn good one. This record. Holy shit. It’s 10 tracks of unforgiving, devastating, honest Godflesh material, and it will beat the living hell out of you. Broadrick’s roar is full on again (as we know, he used more delicate vocals for other projects such as Jesu), and Green’s bass wallops and commands, reminding the world just how vital he is to this band’s penetrating sound. These guys together again as an active, recording band may have seemed impossible even last year at this time, and who could have imagined this new record would be as wholly satisfying as it is? In fact, out of all of those efforts by metal’s established guard, this one is the best one.

“New Dark Ages” is a fitting title for the first song on this record, because that’s what it sounds like it’s ushering in for us all. Eerie noises hang in the air before the bottom drops out, a thick and ugly bassline slithers through it, and Broadrick lets his howls rip, as he belts, “Don’t look back!” That’s a fitting sentiment for this band that’s hammering forward, and up next is “Dead End” that begins with sludgy guitars, barked vocals, and a mashing, chugging tempo that chews flesh. Noise spits fire at the end, leading into “Shut Me Down,” one of the most powerful tracks on the album. The guys hit on a massive groove on this one, and it could be the one that gets you maimed in a live setting. The vocals take on an alien effect, Broadrick and Green wail away with their strings, and the song has a killer crunch you won’t be able to shake. This is my favorite track on the album. “Life Giver Life Taker” lets the bass grab center stage, and the vocals are cleaner and hang in the air like a mist. The guitars take on a classic metal feel, something you don’t often get from Godflesh, and the track drifts off into the ether after it has made its mark. “Obeyed” has a doom metal tilt to it, with the ambiance threatening and foreboding, and Broadrick’s howls of, “You will never make a difference” should smother you in bleakness and misery.

“Curse Us All” also has some sludginess to it, and it is thrashy and massive. There isn’t a hint of forgiveness to this one, as the guys keep beating and pounding away, with the vocals throaty and painful. “Carrion” is terrifying at times, with mechanical-minded chaos bursting forth, as frosty, bendy riffs and thumping bass create the surrounding, one in which Broadrick’s shout of, “You are a vulture, picking flesh from bone!” sounds both threatening and detached at the same time. “Imperator” pulls back just a bit vocally, as the singing is cleaner and less violent, though the other elements of the track waste no time eviscerating your soul. “Towers of Emptiness” is chunky and hammering, with everything sounding like monsters battling robots, and the band checking out different moods from reflective to violently agitated. Broadrick howls and warbles through the track, and once it’s over, you’re not quite sure what hit you. “Forgive Our” closes the record with 7:41 of volcanic emotion. Furnace hiss greets you from the start, as everything swells and the assault comes on in a calculating manner. The beatings are meted out with a terrifying degree of control, crushing your will and leaving you an apologizing heap. The song bashes back and forth, with Broadrick and Green taking one last chance to do psychological and physical damage and leaving every bit of their anger and frustration on the line for anyone who experiences this record to absorb in full.

Godflesh could have put out anything and most people would have been thrilled. But “A World Lit Only By Fire” is one of the strongest statements in their catalog, a total triumph for this band 13 years after they last made a record. I’m not sure if this album is the beginning of a new era or their last will and testament, but whatever the answer, they could not have done a better job, built a bigger blaze, or fired as effective a shot. This is an all-time great band that remains great, and this record will punish you thoroughly.

For more on the band, go here: http://godflesh1.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://avalancheinc.co.uk/

For more on the label, go here: http://godflesh1.bandcamp.com/merch