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Deaf Forever is our monthly metal column, where we review the best in doom, black, speed, and every other metal type under the sun.
If you followed my column last year, you shouldn’t be a stranger to Rebel Wizard, the “negative metal” project of Australian black metal musician Bob Nekrasov. The Warning of One was one of my favorite records last year by combining raw black metal fuzz with NWOBHM frolic. Six months after One, Rebel Wizard returns with Great Addictions to a Blindingly Dark, Worldy Life, and man, how he has risen. There’s a lot of talk about how even though we’re more connected and closer to each other we’re actually more alone, but if you’re a metalhead, you kind of already know that. Heavy metal is communal music for isolationists and the disaffected. Addictions is more aware of this than Rebel Wizard’s past works, and that elevated consciousness is crucial. Nekrasov taps into the solitude that defined Burzum’s early works and the depressive USBM of Xasthur and Leviathan, fusing them with NWOBHM’s romanticism for the grimmer Black Rose. “Real Happiness In Killing Enjoyment” is as fist-pumping as it its maudlin, more informed by the sadness of living yet not burdened by it. “There Is A Game Of Madness, And It Was Decided That You Must Keep On Playing” resembles the Berzerker playing speed metal, blindingly fast yet retaining a hummy catchiness. And if you’re into solos that would make even Gary Moore shed a tear from beyond the grave? The end of the title track has them in droves, easily Rebel Wizard’s most accomplished song yet. Black metal has never been so lighter-raising. If One’s only flaw was that it was too short, Addictions’ triumph is that it’s more fully formed than most LPs — he really shines in the EP format. Nekrasov is no longer just someone who found two sides of metal that compliment each other: Addictions is the first sign he’s a black metal songwriting force to be reckoned with.
Chicago quintet the Atlas Moth differed from many “Neurisis” groups in their time in that they actually cared about differentiating themselves through simple things like hooks and experimentation. They were a big part of the Windy City’s early 2010s metal boom, having the most potential for crossover success without diluting themselves. Their fourth album Coma Noir’s title suggests a darker direction, and that it delivers. Vocalist and guitarist Stavros Giannopoulos shrieks harder than ever, creating a harsher contrast from their layered, doomy yet shimmering attack that’s long been their signature. “Galactic Brain” is both one of their prettiest tracks, with spacey synths complimenting sweet leads, and one of Giannopoulos’s most throat-shredding. The four years between The Old Believer and Coma sound like a decade in his voice, and considering how fucked our sense of time has been in the past year, that may be a conservative estimate. They’ve never been shy about their love for Deftones in their lush crunch, and Coma mirrors Gore in that there’s a little more tradition in their approach. The title track is rife with double bass and nods to classic leads and progressions, while maintaining their psychedelic touch. The Atlas Moth were one of the few post-metal groups who kept the sound interesting since the turn of the decade, arguably when that style peaked, and it’s just great to see them returned and vibrant.
Portland black-noise-grind unit Knelt Rote laid themselves for worms to eat back in 2015, but they’ve returned with Alterity, a much needed reanimation. They’ve embraced black metal more and more with each record, and this is no exception, sounding like if Revenge told late 90s Brutal Truth to cut the weed and put them on a militaristic exercise regimen. Knelt Rote have also taken note of the PNW’s flourishing death metal scene, yet they adhere to total brutality, not particularly committing to one death metal style. Noise remains to provide an undercurrent that slightly shifts the axis, though it does provide “Lachesis” with a stormy entrance. Alterity has such strict discipline that you can see that look in its eyes where it’s just one wrong stare or misinterpreted gesture from breaking loose. In tightening their control, they’re angrier than ever. Alterity flies by in 22 minutes, offering no pleasantries for its sudden return. Do you need this? When do you not need this? Sometimes, the best cure for rage is more rage. (The vinyl version is coming in May — CD and digital are available now if you’re feeling heretical.)
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.
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