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Deaf Forever is our monthly metal column that considers the best releases in black, death, power, Swedish black, speed, and every other metal genre you can name.
Last year, Justin Broadrick and Mark Kozelek put out a collaborative album that was quite underwhelming. If you were hoping for Benji meets Godflesh, it wasn’t that — Broadrick didn’t turn up enough, and Kozelek’s free rambling style has not done him any favors recently.
Planning For Burial sounds like a Jesu and Sun Kil Moon collab that makes sense, with Thom Wasluck connecting doom metal, slowcore, and dream pop into a style he simply calls “gloom.” (He once put out a song called “I Put Red House Painters on a Mixtape For You.”) If you got into Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked At Me this month, Below The House is not nearly that intense, but Planning For Burial is the metal equivalent of Phil Elverum. Both put you uncomfortably close into their worlds, and Wasluck in particular looks at how loneliness really takes it toll. House was recorded in his childhood home in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he moved after living in New Jersey for nearly a decade, and that isolation roars in his huge doom guitars and serene drones. Glockenspiel and drawn out the Faint-like synth clash against guitar scrapes in “Whiskey and Wine,” one of the best examples of how he can be so loud but also so delicate. There’s also more of a concentration of straight-up rockers here, especially in “Warmth of You” and “Dull Knife Pt. 1,” where Wasluck’s Nine Inch Nails upbringing really shows. Desideratum was one of my favorite records of 2014 — “Where You Rest Your Head At Night” will likely be my favorite song of the decade — and House will be the in the same class this year.
In the earlier part of the decade, Speedwolf was the hottest metal band in Denver. While they came up when thrash became fashionable again, they emphasized Motorhead’s biker attitude and stood out from the rest of the Exodus and D.R.I. imitators. They even had Denver’s unofficial official anthem with “Denver 666,” which sounds like a million Banquets falling on your head. Speedwolf is more or less broken up following drummer Richie Tice’s departure in 2014, and even with the strength of Denver’s metal scene, the other members have mostly laid low. Vocalist Reed Bruemmer has emerged again in Poison Rites, a new group that isn’t quite metal, but whose garage punk will appeal to anyone who likes it fast, loose, and loud. Their self-titled debut ain’t no middle of the mall Ty Segall shit — it’s the successor to Reatards’ Teenage Hate and Zeke’s Kicked in the Teeth. The former has its prints all over this record — its ramshackle fuzz is like Stooges minus flamboyance, blues driven to a murderous streak. “Fuck My Mind” could very well be the 2017 version of “You Fucked Up My Dreams,” Bruemmer even sounds a little like Jay Reatard here, nailing his Memphis heat delusions from the cold confines of Denver. Motorhead remains a spiritual influence, sounding closer to Lemmy’s attitudes about rock than his actual music. You don’t need a second Jack and Coke in order to listen to Poison Rites, but it helps.
With the success of S U R V I V E, Relapse is almost as much of an electronic label as it is metal. Their interest in electronic music isn’t new; Zombi was on the John Carpenter worship tip nearly a decade before synthwave was even a thing, Nile’s Karl Sanders released ambient records through them, and Relapse’s sublabel Release Entertainment released two of Merzbow’s most well-known of records, Venereology and Pulse Demon. Relapse’s two sides really come together with their new signing, Author and Punisher, the recording name of Tristan Shone. He’s an engineer who makes his own instruments, really putting the industrial in industrial metal. Shone controls everything, and watching him live makes you question if he’s controlling the machines, or if he’s the one under subjugation. Pressure Mine, his latest EP and first for Relapse, focuses on his more melodic side, mostly ditching the outright Godflesh worship. “Nazarene” still has that in spades, but Shone has chosen to put his singing voice up front, which has a lot of the same creepiness as Mike Patton or Buzz Osbourne’s more hushed tones. “Pressure Lover” keeps the bass waves to a slight boil, allowing Shone’s voice to carry through. “Enter This” even carries vibes of VNV Nation, and while Shone’s music could be described as Electronic Body Music, it’s far less dancy and more menacing than most EBM. Pressure sounds like a more restrained Igorr or a funhouse metal version of Autechre, floating between the worlds of electronic and heavy music in a daze.
Andy O’Connor heads SPIN’s monthly metal column, Blast Rites, and also has bylines in Pitchfork, Vice, Decibel, Texas Monthly and Bandcamp Daily, among others. He lives in Austin, Texas.