Deaf Forever is our monthly metal column, where we review the best in doom, black, speed, and every other metal type under the sun.
Damian Master really is one of America’s best metal songwriters right now. Everything he puts out as A Pregnant Light is brimming with hooks and immediacy, giving American black metal a real closeness. After four years and a lot of great EPs in between, he’s finally released the second APL album, Broken Play. And if you’re a broken player like me, and there’s a lot of you out there, this is essential. Broken cuts and tears through heartbreak and self-doubt as Master does, revving ’80s hooks into nightmarish tremolos and shrieks. There is one key difference with this one: at his heart, Master is a dude who loves the fast, the loud, and the pissed off, as anyone who dares to proclaim having good taste should. He doesn’t take you seriously if you don’t like Motorhead, and neither do I. Broken has more thrash and more punk, and “Future Panther” and the title track in particular make you wonder if he’s coming for Power Trip’s throne. But really, he’s just taking a part of his heritage and weaving it into his distinctive sound. Master, the Black Metal Selfie God not afraid to be his own cover model and whose Twitter presence blurs the line between confidence and arrogance (and I say it with much love), is the only person who could get away with calling a track “I Am The Man of Your Dreams.” Trust, it’s as tender and ripping as anything else he’s done. “My Last Song” is on some Boris “Farewell” putting the closer as the opener type shit, another bold move that almost seems happenstance with how Master just cranks out bangers. Broken is album that sounds as good blasting from a pickup on its last miles as it does peering out the window of a brick apartment whose walls have seen a thousand times more strife than you ever will. It is haunted by memory, haunted by the ever-dimming light of redemption, and its only option in the face of endless torture is to rock.
Is it too early to get nostalgic for the early 2010s? Santa Barbara's post-metal group Lanyah’s second album Forever in May is the sort of album I would have been jamming heavily back then, back when I was a confused young man who wore cargo camo shorts, and sprawling, gorgeous post-metal was the music that made the most sense. I am a confused man in his early 30s who wears camo 511s, and when this stuff is done right, it hits like nothing else. There are the hardcore sections that carry a debt to Envy, wounds as gaping maws roaring until they bleed out. “Wind Chimes” is the post-hardcore I want to hear, treading close to classic emo before sprawling out into liberatory anger. Sometimes they crumble into doom, sometimes they crumble into synths that come from college dorms on Eno and second-wave black metal benders. A track like “Alone Year,” dominated by simmering doom with occasional rolling tom bursts, is both wide-spanning and pressingly intimate. I used to think that Planning for Burial was a full band and not a solo project, and May sounds like if PFB did consist of more than one person. It’s not too late to feel younger and lost again.
Oh, you’ve been talking about raiding Area 51 and getting some alien kush/nut/cheeks? Wormed been on that tip, you’re late. The Spanish death metal quartet released the slam-meets-space classic Planisphærium in 2003, got stuck in a wormhole for the rest of the ’00s (who knows what they were doing in there), and came back into this decade freakier and heavier. Metaportal is their latest EP, arriving just in time for you to fantasize about the alien liberation that will never be. Wormed always knew that slam death metal is best when it embraces freakiness, and Metaportal is filled with wild, Cryptopsy-like turns, weird ambient electronics, and Phlegeton’s cosmic-garbage-compactor vocals. Seriously, whatever sewers the rest of the galaxy has, it’s mutating them for the better. “Remote Void” is the perfect meeting point between Gorguts and Malignancy: heady with aberrant guitar scrapes that knock you off your toes, then hitting with burly slams to knock you out the arena of existence. The best track on here is “E-Xystem://CE,” which ends by cranking the noise before disappearing suddenly. Were they called back into the cosmos? Were the silence? Who knows, but they left another stunner before departing. Hope they brought enough White Claws for the trip.
In the middle of the month, without warning, Rebel Wizard dropped another heater on us with Hark! Hark! Hark!. If you’re studied in the Negative Gospel of Bob Nekrasov, you know what to expect here. For the rest and falser of you: this is blackened heavy metal, NWOBHM axe-wielding submerged in black metal buzz. No one does kvlt katchiness like him. “Hair, Wet Soil, Metallic Taste” has a title that should be read in a Nitro “Hot, Wet, Drippin’ With Sweat” cadence, and glam it isn’t, drenched in sleaze it is. Nekrasov doesn’t give you the keys to the Lamborghini; its most tantalizing part is the slow melodic buildup in the middle, and its brighter, but equally gothy rendition at the end. Hark’s two remaining tracks are faster: “Drowned By The Moisture of Hot Breath” blazes through and is too grim for love, and “Floating Forward with Closed Eyes Filled With Light” is one foot in the corporeal, one foot in the devil. He thrashes like a party-hard nihilist, and he can reflect melodically like one too. Hark is another revelation not for its innovations, but for refining Rebel Wizard’s style. Negative Metal Forever.
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.