Every month, we bring you the essential metal albums you need to hear. This month's covers records from A Pregnant Light, Oozing Wound, and more. We call it Deaf Forever.
Is it too soon to feature the same artist twice? A Pregnant Light’s Damian Master can’t stop bringing the bangers, and while his heartbreaking Rocky is a lock for my year-end list, it’s not the only new heat he has this year. Deep Lavender Dreams collects two of his tapes from last year, All Saints’ Day and Neon White (minus the cover of Nick Cave’s “Abbitoir Blues”), two new songs, and an acoustic version of “Ringfinger” from Before I Came. Tape-phobes can finally get a taste of Master’s catchy blackened pop genius, or as he calls it, “purple metal.” The tapes compiled here are some of the best of his recent work, with his most furious hooks combined with his most rose-eyed — or blood-stained — visions of love. “Blixen” and “Fear of God” are two of my favorite APL songs, teenage sensuality that also transcends age through fury. They prove that a hook isn’t antithetical to black metal, it’s downright vital. “Phoenix Street” is like if Springsteen wrote Deafheaven’s “Dream House,” with the old Midwest as bewildering as new San Francisco. His new songs are also up to his standards. “Rose of Golden Crosses” is his most black metal song in ages, so much pent-up anger from so much loss. The other new song, “Bitter Lemon Kiss,” is also a throwback to the earlier demos but works in the hard-up romanticism that lend to his distinct touch. You have to wonder the genesis for its opening line: “Roses are red, bruises are purple, you gave me an ouroboros, an ‘I love you’ in a circle.” Leave it to Master to find a fresh context for an ouroboros in black metal in 2016. (Physical editions come with an APL motel-style notepad, for when inspiration strikes at the lowest — and thus opportune — times, when you’re out of Bombay Sapphire and the liquor store’s closed.)
Chicago’s “we’re not a thrash band” Oozing Wound somehow manage to take the piss out of metal and write legitimate bangers at the same time, proving you can be sincere and snarky. Crossover, sci-thrash, black metal, noise rock, and doom have all been in their crosshairs and served as inspiration. Whatever Forever, their third latest, has all the pissing-in-the-punch joy of their other records, and while the fascination with the galactic is also there, it manifests itself in a more drifting feeling throughout. They still sound thrashy, but also knocked out of orbit. “Weather Tamer” captures this in its length and its thrash-by-Glass repetition, and instrumental segue “Eruptor” has some of their jerkiest, most frantic rhythms yet, some hand-held camera “we are fucking lost” type shit. There’s psychedelic hell in the soloing of “Mercury In Retrograde Virus,” proving that they can work that influence beyond having great songs about scoring drugs (“Call Your Man” from Retrash is still a heater). What’s most important, though, is that the mosh is still present. How are you not going to punch someone while flailing and crying to “Everything Sucks, And My Life Is A Lie,” which sounds like of Peter Steele still had Carnivore in him when writing Type O Negative songs? This is a record for the pit, “the pit” being this shit universe.
SXSW seemed like forever ago, and while I’ve already covered metal’s declining presence there, one band that really stood out were Phoenix’s Take Over and Destroy. Their self-titled record is, admittedly, all over the place, but therein lies the charm. The closest you could get to summing them up is “Goblin if they were bikers,” and while the horror-movie vibes are strong, that doesn’t quite encompass them. “By Knife” would have you thinking they’re a death n’ roll band, Swedish riffs with Lemmy’s attitude, but by the third track, “Let Me Grieve,” they’ve turned into a dirtier Tribulation, with vocalist/keyboardist Andy Labarbera trading his growls in for a sleazy croon. Post-punk even gets perverted on “Out of Frame,” as a lurching bass gives way to midnight movie synth. If there is a glue, it’s solid heavy metal songcraft - “Love Among the Ruins” is the best In Solitude song since In Solitude broke up. Throughout the record, you don’t know if you’re entering a private jam session with Billy Gibbons and Black Breath, or a super low-budget Fiallo film where you’re the sacrificial “star.” TOAD like to keep you guessing, but they also like to party. (If you picked up the Gatecreeper record from our store, you might want to know that, up until earlier this year, guitarist Nate Garrett was also in TOAD.)
Ethan McCarthy is one of those dudes who lives for the road. Just in the past few months, I saw him with his main group, nihilist doom trio Primitive Man (where I also saw MAKE), caught up with him when he was driving #1 stunnas Cobalt around the country in September, and just a couple weeks ago again with his new grindcore band, Vermin Womb. It’s a wonder he has any time to hit the studio, but he spins road rage into nasty riffs. Decline is Vermin Womb’s first full-length, and it just proves once again that McCarthy has no shortage of vehemence in his bones. If you were a fan of McCarthy’s former trio Clinging To The Trees of a Forest Fire, this is definitely more in that vein (he also teams with ex-CTTTOAFF bassist Zach Harlan here). John Coltrane had his “sheets of sound,” and McCarthy’s battering of vile riff after vile riff is on that wavelength. McCarthy is one of the few metal players with his own sound, rich in low-end but slightly hollowed out for a more black metal feel, a big and crusty sound without sounding like Kurt Ballou. His growls and shrieks are downright feral, and where Coltrane was tapping into a universal consciousness, McCarthy speaks to a common pain and mutual vitriol. It takes from various genres to show that there is a contempt we can all connect with, whether we’re grind freaks or black metal heads. How can music so divisive and abrasive be so unifying too?