Deaf Forever is a monthly column that dissects the month's best releases in Swedish, power, thrash, and other precious metals. August's edition includes releases from Wretch, Blood Incantation and more.
Denver secretly has one of the States’ most vibrant metal scenes. And no, it’s not filled with stoner metal. Among the newest of these bands is cosmic death metal quartet Blood Incantation, who further expand upon the otherworldly sounds of Morbid Angel at their most progressive. Starspawn is their first full-length, after a series of well-received demos and an EP, Interdimensional Extinction. It’s a clearer expression than Extinction, by way of making it an even more confusing listen. For one, they thought it’d be a smashing idea to start the record with a 13-minute song, especially since it’s Part 1 of a song concluded two tracks later. And more shocking, it works. There’s a solo loop, there’s push-pull dynamics, there’s fretless bass, there’s just progged out death metal madness. The rest of the record continues like that, except in smaller bits. They’re the freakier cousins to their labelmates Horrendous, both of whom can lure the old heads in with classic feels and newer fans with a fresh approach. (While Starspawn’s art is impressive, the art for Extinction is Saturn with rings made out of fucking skulls, and if you don’t think that’s the most metal shit ever, we won’t miss you.)
Jay Gambit has made solo noise under the Crowhurst moniker, but lately, he’s morphed it into a death/black metal project, though the noise is still squealing and popping. For II, Gambit has enlisted Aevangelist’s Matron Thorn (whose Death Fetishist was featured in this column before) and Caïna’s Andrew Curtis-Brignell on guitars, bringing not just some name recognition but also permission for everyone to present themselves much the same, but also quite differently. Thorn’s influence is more apparent throughout, as II resembles a doomier take on his psychedelic death metal. While there’s heft in the guitar, it also feels light as air; Gambit’s approach to metal is more akin to noise’s freer spectrum than its disciplinarian, highly structured extreme. “Take The Pain Away” could appear on a Fistula record were it not for its distance, Gambit’s ghostly vocals pushing everything back. II is harder to hold onto, which only makes it more alluring. There’s more Caïna towards the end of the record, with the broken melodies of “Fractured Lung” and how space clashes with Gambit’s noise feedback on closer “Dried Blood and Old Earth.” Where the rest of II threatens to untether, “Blood” actually does so, and wraps up a compelling experiment in freeing metal.
The Gates of Slumber were a fucking great American heavy metal band. “Were” is the saddest part of that sentence, as they broke up in 2014 following bassist Jason McCash’s death from a heroin overdose. Two years later, Karl Simon returns with Wretch, named after Gates’ last album, and ditches the Robert Howard metaphors by going straight into harsh realities. Saint Vitus has always been an influence sonically for Simon, and now he’s taken on their lyrical penchant for the downtrodden. Wretch’s self-titled debut is centered around McCash’s passing, but another loss hangs large: former Gates drummer J. Clyde Paradis passed away just a couple weeks before the album’s release. That only intensifies the gloom that cloaks the record; Simon plays as he always does, but now he feels lost and confused. Riffs that would normally sound triumphant question themselves; Simon’s weathered voice feels even more tired. His soloing takes on Robin Trower’s expressive, long-winded character, but with the knowledge that there’s no clear path ahead, espeically in the instrumental “Bloodfinger.” There’s a deep, deep Judas Priest cover — “Winter,” from their debut Rocka Rolla — and Wretch nail a loneliness that an early Rob Halford and co. couldn’t quite nail in 1974. A tough listen, but well worth it.
You know what’s sorely been missing from Deaf Forever? FINNISH FUCKING SPEED METAL. From Ranger to Speedtrap to Foreseen (well, they’re more crossover, but with loads of speed), the country makes some of the best of this stuff, almost to counteract the gloss of their two biggest exports, Nightwish and Children of Bodom. Rotör is another example of how the country’s been dominating modern speed metal, and while they seemingly arrived out of nowhere with their debut Musta Käsi, they’ve expertly exhumed the grave of the ‘80s. The singer, only known as VHP, sounds like Rob Halford living after too many nights always rocking to the dawn, and I mean that in the best way possible. It gives a not exactly punky, but unrefined air that makes sure it doesn’t veer towards sterile perfection. That’s not the only Priest influence here — Rotör find a sweet spot between the directness of British Steel, the unabashed fury of Defenders of the Faith and the pre-leather charm of Sin After Sin. For good metal fun that’s not trying to revolutionize, but not grandstanding in its stagnation, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Justin DeTore has been flying high in so many bands lately — namely Magic Circle, Stone Dagger, and Sumerlands — that it seems like his solo death metal project Innumerable Forms was left to rot. Not so, as he just put out a digital tape featuring two new rippers, “Petrified” and “Joyless.” The former is a deep Swedish fast banger; the latter dives into sludgier, more Finnish territories. DeTore is a goddamn riff machine, and his deep growls are nothing to sneer at either. This tape, along with their other releases, is the intersection of studied death metal knowledge with a punky “bang it out” attitude. Interestingly enough, this tape features writing credits from Jensen Ward, drummer and vocalist for Iron Lung. Innumerable Forms’ live band includes Austin punk-metal master Chris Ulsh, and we haven’t heard from Mammoth Grinder in a while, so let’s hope that there will be more shows with the two. (Side note: DeTore has ANOTHER ripping new band: Devil’s Dare, his interpretation of pub-fueled NWOBHM. Those Mass hardcore dudes won’t quit.)
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