Welcome back to Deaf Forever! February’s picking up, with a few key releases already being teased for eventual release and major albums already hitting shelves. (I’ve heard the new Cobalt record, and I wish I could talk about it more, because it rules.) You might be tired of 2016 already, and with a dud of a Megadeth record, Phil Anselmo mixing with white wine, Ghost being the least worst winner for the metal Grammy, or Nuclear Blast deciding that Ghost Bath faking being Chinese wasn’t a deterrent for a record deal, I can’t exactly blame you. Dread not, as there’s still plenty of great heaviness coming out. In fact, while I profile fewer releases in this edition (I used the last column partially as a 2015 catchup), some of them are already contenders for my favorite records of the year. Most of these are on the more extreme end of things, and they’re definitely not on the commercial side at all, so while older critics might scoff at me for not writing about what “actual metalheads” listen to (like I said, the new Megadeth was a bore), I have a little more faith in you. The adventurous stuff will always be more rewarding than trying to keep up with whatever Blabbermouth’s…blabbing about.
In this edition, we’ll explore the best damn jazz-metal fusion you’ve ever heard (or one of them, at least), the new one from one of the most metal bands in existence, heavy post-punk from an indie heartthrob, and more.
Aluk Todolo: Voix (Ajna)
Aluk Todolo are one of the most exciting metal groups today, incorporating krautrock and free jazz into black metal, and into a new form of instrumental metal where none of those tags do it justice. It’s the carefree spirit of early metal, reborn into a shit-hot instrumental trio. Voix has the same energy of their previous effort, Occult Rock, but it’s presented more as a simmer than a full on blast. Make no mistake: this is still busy music, one that blasts through references to MC5, Keiji Haino, Darkthrone, Sonny Sharrock, and Hawkwind while never looking back or losing sight. The standard tremolos in black metal become denser and mystified, but also weaponized, as a threat to hack psych bands too obsessed with reverb and easy drug references to really break your mind. (If they are to share a stage with the Black Angels, we might have a whole new era of black metal controversy.) Funky bass in a black metal setting might seem like an ipecac; it’s not about the slap, it’s about pace and the sweat, and Voix is dripping. Aluk Todolo are well aware it’s difficult to reimagine yourself while still staying true to your core mission, but those challenges are a joy. Voix has that same feel of a late Coltrane record or fusion Miles; that same warm, reassuring breath that the trip you’re on is gonna warp you forever and you’ll be better off for it. That, in a metal record, is unheard of, even from groups with more open jazz influences. As far as black metal goes — or really, just metal — Voix is the In a Silent Way to the On the Corner of Mastery’s Valis: it’s not as outright intense, but the impact is all the same. You’ll hear me talk about this again come December, and let’s hope you can keep up in the conversation.
Destroyer 666: Wildfire (Season of Mist)
If there’s an award for The Most Metal Band of All Time, Destroyer 666 have to at least be on the shortlist. Odds are K.K. Warslut, Destroyer 666’s leader, already wiped his ass with the shortlist and declared himself the victor. The name alone is reason enough, but more importantly, Destroyer 666’s blackened thrash pretty much epitomizes metal at its most ridiculous, and subsequently, most sublime: Warslut’s lyrical bloodlust, frenzied solos for heads who think Metallica is molasses, an unwavering commitment to leather and spikes and nothing else. Wildfire is their anticipated 5th album, their first since 2009’s Defiance. Despite that they take their time with recording records, they sound as horny and determined as something recorded on the fly. Without guitarist and chief songwriter Shrapnel, Warslut had opted for a more straight ahead approach on Wildfire, focusing on the anthemic speed metal that bashes posers in first and asks where the whiskey and speed are later. It’s almost as if Warslut knew Lemmy was to depart us, and he had to make the ultimate tribute to Motorhead, particularly the OTT gospel of “Overkill.” (There’s a song called “White Line Fever” here too.) Shrapnel’s taste for the grand isn’t entirely lost here, thanks to “Hounds at Ya Back” and closer “Tamam Shud,” where Warslut’s cries to Mars grow more frenzied as the song goes on, eventually turn into full-on metal praise music. Wildfire is metal for destruction, obviously, but it is also a hymn to creation, even if that creation involves putting a boot up your enemy’s ass so you may prosper. Listen to this album at Revolver.
Eight Bells: Landless (Battleground)
Portland trio Eight Bells take a lot of the trends of mid-00s metal — Neurosis doom, technical intricacy a la Hella and Tera Melos, nautical fascinations, an affinity for chamber arrangements, Northwestern black metal — and present them in a new configuration with Landless, their sophomore effort. This is reminiscent of the dreamy chamber doom of the Bay Area’s Worm Ouroboros, albeit with a lot more guitar heft from Melynda Jackson. That extra bit of heaviness really makes Landless’ dreaminess feel loftier without totally drifting off into sea. The title track in particular shows how they go from drone to black metal to math rock with alarming ease, and it’s almost unfair that most of the album has to follow that juggernaut. (“Hold My Breath” is quite sprightly, though, and it’s fun without being strained.) Drummer Rae Amitay, who also plays in Chicago black metal quartet Immortal Bird, joined them for this record and she’s a natural fit for Jackson’s and bassist Haley Westeiner’s dexterity. (Jackson recently suffered a broken leg while Eight Bells are on tour with Voivod. Amitay set up a Gofundme to help with medical expenses here: https://www.gofundme.com/ywqjv984)
Death Fetishist: Whorifice (Self-released)
One of the more interesting death metal releases last year as Aevangelist’s Enthrall to the Void of Bliss, a swirling headfuck of disjointed guitars, mechanical beats, and even a little trip-hop. Guitarist Matron Thorn continues that sound in a more black metal direction with Death Fetishist, a duo with drummer Grond Nefarious. Whorifice is their debut EP, comprised of two songs . Thorn takes a lot from Blut Aus Nord’s dissonance, particularly from The Work Which Transforms God, stretching bleak industrial tremolos to test just how elastic they are. Aevangelist used a drum machine to create a upfront Godfleshian coldness; Grond is lower in the mix, but his pulse his no less throbbing. The tension between Thorn and Grond is noteworthy when Thorn slows down into a groovier section towards the end of “Flesh Covenant,” Grond punctuating Thorn’s pain. Thorn is quite prolific — Aevangelist has already put out quite a bit, and his solo project Benighted in Sodom’s discography is extensive — so expect to hear much more from Death Fetishist this year.
Ritual Chamber: Obscurations (To Feast on the Seraphim) (Profound Lore)
Dario Derna is mostly known for his black metal band Khrom, but he was also the drummer for cult Seattle death metal group Infester, whose sole full-length, To the Depths, in Degradation, is one of the most perverse and underrated underground records ever. Ritual Chamber, Derna’s new project, is a meeting of those two sides. Naturally, it sounds like a more cavernous form of Incantation, a style that’s gained traction from bands such as Grave Miasma and Impetuous Ritual. Derma’s experience in black metal helps him get more mileage from extending riffs, and he still captures some of Infester’s grimy feel despite that this doesn’t lean on murk as much as other Incantation clones. Obscurations is also more varied musically, especially in “A Parasitic Universe,” which fuses Autopsy-esque leads and early Paradise Lost’s gothic doom. “Void Indoctrination” also throws in some Swedish chunkiness and breakdowns that are a more esoteric take on Suffocation’s NYHC-DM fusion. Vocally, he don’t go as guttural as Infester guitarist Jason Oliver, whose secrets to getting those growls are probably best left secrets, but he still provides an ample homage. Death metal’s already off to a great start this year. You can listen to this album at Noisey.
Death Index: Death Index (Deathwish)
A year and a half after its release, Merchandise’s After the End is as appallingly boring as it was when it came out, a monument of adult indie. Carson Cox’s new project, Death Index, is thankfully the opposite of that. He delivers his signature croon, his Sinatra for shoegazers, over a battery, assisted by Marco Rapisarda, that’s like a crossover thrash band reinterpreting Suicide. (“Fast Money Kill” sounds like a working title for “Fast Money Music.”) In Merchandise, his voice would get sucked into the rough dream-pop, but in Death Index, it makes for a seductive contrast. There’s loads of Birthday Party vibes here too (“Dream Machine” has that twang in a more metal context), despite the differing trajectory — while The Bad Seeds found Nick Cave expanding his voice, Death Index is Cox rediscovering his hunger. In fast tracks like “Fuori Controllo,” with bass straight out of Napalm Death’s Scum, and in the more synth-driven creeper “Lost Bodies,” that energy is evident, and it’s a welcome change to whatever After was. You can stream the album here.
Your cart is currently empty.Continue Browsing