Deaf Forever V: May's Best Metal Reviewed

On May 27, 2016

by Andy O' Connor

DeafForever

816ocwW26ML._SL1200_Gorguts – Pleiades' Dust (Season of Mist)

May is a renaissance for folks into creative, technically challenging metal, thanks to a new release from Canadian legends Gorguts. Pleiades' Dust is a single 33-minute track that expands upon Colored Sands' triumphant return, while refining what made it so great. There's skronk abound that Gorguts began working with on Obscura, their 1998 radical shift that's still ahead of its time compared to most death metal. There, the guitars struck out with calculated chaos, stabbing forthright; in Dust, they're restrained without losing force, flowing with the material than against it. (Flowing against was the whole point of Obscura, though.) Mastermind Luc Lemay does not consider himself a technically proficient guitarist, so how has he maintained such a strong reverence amongst technical death metal fanatics? He has always found vibrant chemistry in his partners, and with Kevin Hufnagel (Dysrhythmia, Sabbath Assembly, Vaura) on second guitar and Colin Marston (also Dysrhythmia, Krallice, Withered, producer extraordinaire) on bass, harsh death metal ripples with excitement and also moves with a professional smoothness. They also play with dark ambient towards the end of the movement – could a Haxan Cloak collab be far behind? Dust has some of Gorguts' most complicated material yet, but it's surprisingly pleasant to listen to, as it flows much better than a 33-minute death song, one whose liberality is not readily apparent, would seem. And at about half the length of Obscura or Sands, it's more easily digestible than the rest of their work, even their more straightforward beginnings, and that's not an insult.


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A Pregnant Light – Rocky (Colloquial Sound)

Here's another superb May album composed as a long track, but whereas Dust was an exercise in death metal mastery, A Pregnant Light's Rocky gushes with heartbreak. Rocky is a 21-minute tribute to APL head Damian Master's father, the album's namesake who passed away earlier this year. It has all of what's made APL a distinctive and crossover-worthy voice in American black metal – big hooks only rivaled by Master's own love of Madonna (seriously), rage stemming from a life in hardcore, lush acoustic passages, an examination into human relationships  – pushed further by loss. Master's screams feel even more pained, as he's crying above and to the ground. Rocky is lyrically open even for APL, nothing but pure love and devotion for one of the most important people in his life. Master describes his father as a man made of resilience: “Your heart was too big for your body/Even though it had withered away/Deprived of oxygen/A smile never left your face/You were never bitter or angry/Never sour or upset.” Black metal is so esoteric most of the time that's this sort of bareness is all the more appreciated. It's as much of a celebration of life as it is a mourning period. The most devastating line is a testament to the record's power, even when Master explicitly doubts himself: “Dad, if somehow you can hear me/I’m sorry that this song isn’t all it should be/I love you so much.” The tape version, which is sold out, came packaged with the scent of Rocky's favorite cologne, and just knowing that, even if you can't smell it, shows this is Master's most heartfelt work, out of all his many bands and tapes.


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Messa – Belfry (Aural Music)

Italy's Messa sound like a lot of what's been riding high in the metal world – there's heavy blues boogie coupled with the downer-Heart vocals from a singer only known as Sara, combined with slower doom that sounds like Trouble in a crisis of faith, all interspersed with nods to heavy psychedelia and brief drones that tread the line between a Bell Witch minute and a Sunn O))) second. They sound like a lot of bands, sure, but they take what would be a patch(vest)work and something fresh from increasingly tired sounds. The guitars have both crushing might and a gentle touch, and in the drones, the two meet in a buttery meld, as buttery as greyscale doom can be. “Blood” moves through many of the aforementioned songs, with slight saxophone cutting in and out, and its cohesiveness as a representation of the album as a whole makes it the standout song by far. Messa take doom and give the best quality of Italian metal – it's ornate but not overwrought, sparse but not minimalist. This will resonate with doom fans bored with occult rock, occult rock fans looking for something a little heavier, and experimental freaks looking for something lighter, but still plenty moody.

 


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Chain – Demo 2016 (Self-released)

We're ending this rather intense (even by our standards) edition with some straight-up ripping New York metal. Chain have only this demo to their name, and if it's any indication, there's a lot more decadence on the horizon. They draw primarily from late 70s and early 80s metal, that sweet spot where glam hadn't quite found its way West and thrash was yet to come. Riot, a band of dirty New Yorkers of yore (if you don't jam “Swords and Tequila” daily, you're not a metalhead, that's just facts), are a key influence, especially in the ramshackle vocals and economical gallops and soloing. Is there a more New York metal song title than “Subway Stabber?” Nope, and it fits in with the new wave of classic American Metal ala Magic Circle and Stone Dagger, while sounding a bit looser and drunker. “No Fortune” is where that Riot influence really come into play, all with a brashness that comes off as though it was written, recorded, and mixed at Riot mainman Mark Reale's grave in San Antonio. “Downtown City Boys” sounds like a more primitive version of Manilla Road, kids climbing up the mountains of greatness as fast as they can, rations be damned. It ain't clean, but it's mean, and that's what I counts. These three songs filled with carefree sleaze that makes it the perfect pre-game for watching the Twisted Sister documentary (aside from Twisted Sister themselves, of course).

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