Judiciary: Surface Noise (Closed Casket Activities)
Having driven through Lubbock, Texas, a couple times, there’s not really much I can say about it, and that’s likely for the best. Lubbock does fuck when it comes to musical heritage, though: you know about Buddy Holly, easily the most famous person from there; the Stones’ longtime sax player Bobby Keys hailed just outside of Lubbock in Slaton; this being Texas, there’s also plenty of country heat from there, including Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. It’s only right then that Lubbock should have a contender in another great Texas tradition, crossover thrash, and Judiciary are well on their way to the ranks of Iron Age and Power Trip with their debut full-length Surface Noise. Austin and Dallas can’t have all the shine, the Panhandle really needs it. Judiciary have not only been studying their Texas brethren extensively, they strike with equal fury. Their NYHC influences are a little more apparent, and their focus on mosh parts brings to mind Merauder. Try telling me “Temple” or closer “War (Time is Nigh)” couldn’t be on Master Killer. “7.65mm” is especially rife with downstroke bursts, simple and effective synapse-blasting heaviness that gets you in the pit wherever you are. Judiciary’s 2016 EP The Axis of Equality proved they had all the mosh gumption to stand along the Texas greats; Surface gives their attack more sharpness, as their performance feels more tightly wound. As with a lot of modern metalcore, there are tinges of industrial and noise, though they’re mostly kept to “Zero Hour” and the end of “Burden of Truth.” In fact, “Pury Fury” would be a Jesus Piece track were it not for some strategically placed divebombs. Judiciary aren’t trying to impress you by bringing in those influences: They know their bread and brisket is bringing the mosh the way Texans do, which is just harder than everyone else.
Panopticon: The Crescendo of Dusk (Self-released)
Most of what’s keeping me going right now is the possibility of seeing Panopticon at Austin Terror Fest this summer. (The staff should skip SXSW and come to this instead. Just saying.) The solo project of Minnesota-by-way-of-Kentucky musician Austin Lunn has long been one of the most stellar (American) black metal bands: Lunn works in bluegrass and folk influences that link him to America’s broader musical legacy, he’s made albums about the plight of Kentucky coal workers (aptly named Kentucky) and the perils of navigating mental health treatment (Social Disservices, one of the most brutal albums ever) and, on top of that, he’s a monster drummer. January has been a bit of a light month for new metal, so bless Lunn for dropping a two-song EP, The Crescendo of Dusk, last weekend. Dusk is a tribute to the Northern Lights, as evidenced by the artwork and Lunn’s own admission that “very few things in the world are more beautiful and awe inspiring than [them].” Panopticon is usually pretty goddamn beautiful and the title track, recorded during the making of last year’s The Scars of Man On The Once Nameless Wilderness, may be one of his most beautiful songs yet. While it has the rough hew of Scars, Lunn expands his melodic potential. Keyboards are celestial and light, not symphonic-BM goopy, like Darkspace filtered through Tangerine Dream. It gives you the space for awe. The record’s other track, “The Labyrinth,” dispenses with metal entirely and goes into dark country. Lunn’s clean voice is as harsh as his screeches, but with a gravely inflection. Dusk is a compact version of Panopction’s wide-ranging, enthralling voice.
Find ‘The Crescendo of Dusk’ on Bandcamp here.
Mo'ynoq: Dreaming in a Dead Language (Self-released)
Raleigh, North Carolina’s Mo'ynoq have done the increasingly impossible on their debut full-length Dreaming in a Dead Language: make a straightforward black metal album that’s compelling. Like their brothers to the north Yellow Eyes, they make a lot from uncomplicated melodies. They sound more endlessly layered than they actually are, gazey without gaze. “These Once Tranquil Grounds” blasts off with shreddy runs that accent a gorgeous gallop driving the song. Immediacy is seductive, and the seduction is immediate. Those solos bring a bit of classic metal glory to Mo'ynoq’s attack, not unlike Deaf Forever-favorite Rebel Wizard. “Buried By Regret” is a black metal version of My Dying Bride’s Turn Loose the Swans, with overwhelmingly sad melodies combined with doomy refrains. It’s not as wrought and ornate, but it still ends the record on one hell of a down note — the ending solo in particular is a race toward misery. If you’re gonna go down, look (or sound) pretty while doing so.