Deaf Forever is our monthly metal column, where we review the best in doom, black, speed and every other metal type under the sun.
As leader of The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Mike Scalzi is an anachronist, an antagonist, and an activist. He’s been deliberately out of fashion from the beginning, forming a NWOBHM band toward the end of thrash’s peak in 1990, and he can be a bit prickly about metal, to say the least. You can’t doubt his devotion though, and no one has kept the classic heavy metal flame burning like Slough Feg has. New Organon, their 10th record, is rawer then most of their records past, which means that it just gets to the heart of what makes Slough Feg Slough Feg faster. Scalzi leaves the dwelling to his essays; as a songwriter and performer, he comes and goes with a bang, and what a bang it is. More stripped down here, his trademark gallops, economized and weaponize Maiden at its finest, really charge in “Being and Nothingness” and the title track. In songs like “Headhunter” and “The Apology,” he brings them down to a doomy state without getting too slogged, opting for a lurching siege. And when it comes to twin guitar melodies, that’s where he and his fellow axeman Angelo Tringali really don’t fuck around. “Headhunter” and “The Cynic” are your Gorham-Robertson ticket for 2019, and Slough Feg are nothing if not ecstatic when it comes to that delivery. Scalzi is a defender of the faith, and Organon also deals in a bit of alternate history, with “Sword of Machiavelli” imagining if he ended up in Wichita and jammed with a soul named Mark Shelton. Manilla Road, my dudes, that’s a good one to travel down. It all goes to show there’s still loads of possibilities in a middle-aged sound. (If you’re looking to go further into one of America’s greatest unsung metal bands, explore Hardworlder, featuring the insane twin guitar melodies of “Tiger, Tiger,” or Traveller, the most badass metal record based on a niche RPG.)
There’s no question we’re in the middle of a second American Death Metal renaissance (as America crumbles, death metal gets stronger, and I wouldn’t have it any other way), and one name that should be at the top but isn’t quite yet is San Jose’s Ripped to Shreds. Sole member Andrew Lee is an HM-2 devotee like plenty of DM newcomers, but he takes a different direction than most, opting neither for straight Entombed/Dismember worship, or taking it entirely hardcore. Lee is more interested in developing his own voice as a songwriter, taking liberally from classic death metal influences but never subsuming his identity into them. He came out the gate with the impressive debut 埋葬 (Chinese for “to bury”) last year, and Ripped to Shreds’ new EP 魔經 - Demon Scriptures also lives up to his standard. Lee is nimble when he needs to be, and a raging bulldozer when he doesn’t, and he knows how to strike that balance. “喪家 (In Mourning)” and “株九族 (Nine Familial Exterminations)” straddle the line between melodic death metal and burly OSDM, proof you don’t have to sacrifice melody or taste for unencumbered rage. And Lee can get Nails when he needs to, as evidenced by the 45-second “江湖郎中 (Pseudoelixir).” Closer “日月神教第一節 (Sun Moon Holy Cult Part 1)” takes from a Swedish influence rarely seen now: Edge of Sanity, taking the melodic edge, making it a little more proggy, and ending with a massive artillery dump. One of the most notable death metal bands as of late, don’t sleep.
On the other end of the HM-2 spectrum, we’ve got The Grand Descent, the debut full-length from Massachusetts bruisers Fuming Mouth. If you’re about that intersection of hardcore and death metal, if you’re lifting weights to Hatebreed then getting blown out and thrown out to Obituary afterwards, this is your shit. There’s all of that buzzsaw guitar with a lot of beatdown crowd-killer parts thrown in. It should come as no surprise then that this is another Kurt Ballou winner, working that thick, overdriven HM-2 magic one again. There should be a warning sticker on the record stating that you shouldn’t listen to “Fatalism” if you have priors. Pacifism ceases to exist once the breakdown comes through, in its grip you either bloodthirsty or not as bloodthirsty. It is that mean. Forget about trying to find even inner peace during “Visions of Purgatory” either: they found a way to make gang vocals demonic. It’s as if NYHC was made by actual devils, voices laying on each other in nightmarish solidarity. Another jewel for death metal’s bloody 2019 chalice.
Andy O'Connor's mom bought him a copy of Fargo Rock City during his freshman year of high school, hoping he would become the next Klosterman and bring honor to the O'Connor name. Instead, he's a metal critic who lives in Austin, Texas, and who has written for Spin, Pitchfork, Noisey, and more. His metal column, DEAF FOREVER is on Vinyl Me, Please every month. At least he's the best metal critic living in Austin.