Deaf Forever is our monthly metal column, where we review the best in doom, black, speed and every other metal type under the sun.
New Pig Destroyer is always worth celebrating. Some of my favorite moments are when they drop the speed and Scott Hull, the Vape Dad Riff Lord, just lays into a thick groove. “Starbelly,” from the GOAT record Prowler in the Yard, is a sludgy trawl that is the epitome of having a parasite crawl in you with no intention of breaking free. Book Burner’s opener “Sis” has brawny breakdowns that make me wonder if Scott Hull has been hitting the gym with the Harms Way dudes. They’ve also done sick covers of Helmet’s “In the Meantime” and The Stooges’ “Down on the Street.” Pig Destroyer’s sixth record Head Cage is a record built around those groovy blocks, a total flip from their pulverizing grind. Taking a diversion and making the base of your sound is risky, but Pig Destroyer didn’t become the best grindcore band in the world by serving reheated Earache leftovers over and over again. “Army of Cops” is a romper’s romp, taking the distrust and paranoia that’s always been in their albums and giving it more of a bouncy stomp; “Circle River” is noise rock that’s both noisy (you’d be surprised how much noise rock is kinda tame) and muscular. Closer “House of Snakes” references “Starbelly” in its turmoil, the closest the band will get to “pretty” and yet it still sounds so gloriously ugly.
Vocalist J.R. Hayes is one of the few metal lyricists I’ll read on page and listen to on record for his examinations on humanity’s twisted nature, but “The Adventures of Jason and JR” is his wackiest song yet, detailing a story where they get attacked by Dick Cheney on the way to an Iron Lung show, only to cap off the evening with lengua tacos. It’s too wild to be true, and yet the headline “Cheney attacks local band” could be plausible now because, not in spite, of its absurdity. It wouldn’t even be the fifth craziest part of the news cycle! Head Cage is the lengua of a band that’s lengua itself — eating cow tongue seems off-putting at first, but when you eat it and realize how fucking tender it is, you’ll never understand why you never had it sooner. Is a grindcore band that doesn’t blast most of the time delicious? Never been more tantalizing.
What Power Trip is to thrash, Philadelphia’s Horrendous are for death metal. On a surface level, Horrendous sound a lot like Death’s progressive era, when Chuck Schuldiner realized from Human onward that death metal can and should it expand itself. It’s Horrendous’ understanding of the latter that make them an exceptional band, and their fourth record Idol is another triumph in that regard. Their last record, Anareta, contained some sweeping overtures, death metal bordering on arena rock. Idol is a bit more restrained, though it’s no less powerful. Sure, that keyboard-laden opening of “Soothsayer,” suggesting a death metal band has a tight grasp on imagining the heavenly, might not sound like a band dialing it back. Idol’s appeal is that it’s more focused, more devoted to giving meaning to technicality. “Devotion (Blood For Ink)” is the most revealing of their ambitions, Black Album grandeur with Cynic’s proficiency and cosmic composition. Imagine Hetfield or Newstead yelling “Emptiness” to kick off the song — it’s not entirely out there. Idol manifests its bigger vision more subtly — even the instrumental “Threnody” and closer “Obolus” feel more in line than outliers. Horrendous have more than proved how accomplished they are, and if they get on the right tours, ones where they might be the only death metal band on the bill, they’d get a real chance to prove their might. They already have the eye most (death) metal groups don’t.
The Netherland’s An Autumn For Crippled Children — this month’s entry for the band my editor won’t believe is real — aren’t talked about like some of their more recognized blackgaze peers, yet they are among the masters of the form. Alcest were the progenitors who made explicit the connection between black metal and shoegaze’s hypnotizing qualities; Deafheaven became the superstars who transcended the genre; AAFCC broke the pristine mirror and found even more beauty in the cracks. Their seventh album The Light of September continues with that aesthetic, a little cleaner but by no means fixed or glossy. Here, they dig into their more post-punk side; you could put the title track or “New Hope” on a goth night and it wouldn’t break the flow of a New Order block. September is filled with broken piano that lays in the back yet somehow still comes to dominate a song, much like their deceased peers Lifelover (another band way ahead of their time on the black metal/shoegaze/post-punk unity tip). Even when it’s cleaner, like on “Fragility,” the piano still carries a ton of mourning and imperfect anguish. AAFCC favors anonymity, so they won’t be on “Last Call with Carson Daly” any time soon. Still, how much would “The Golden Years” light up a crowd on some “Happy When it Rains” shit?
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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