by Andy O'Connor
DEAF FOREVER is a monthly column devoted to doom, black, dirge, power and every type of metal you can possibly imagine.
Legend has it that Oxnard, CA hardcore trio Nails, led by veteran slammer Todd Jones, were signed to Nuclear Blast solely off the strength of Max Cavalera rocking Nails sweatpants at Best Buy. Nails are not sweatpants music; they are about as close to Occam's Razor in musical form as you can get. You Will Never Be One of Us is like if every song on Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power was “Fucking Hostile” and it was played twice as fast. (The last song is eight minutes and isn't quite like “Hollow,” but you get the idea.) Nails' battering ram of HM-2 driven hardcore finds a knack for anthems, and moreso than their previous records, this has some real anthems. There's the title track, of course – it's not a song of prejudice, it's simply telling those who don't understand and don't get it to fuck off, an empowerment for metalheads from within. “Life is a Death Sentence” goes from relentless blast to hypnotic chug and shows that there's a bit of glee under Jones' perma-snarl, as you'll be yelling the title for days to come. One of Us is brutish and inflexible – these are its core attributes, not its weaknesses.
Wayne Sarantopoulos has formed so many bands, it's just easier to look at his Metal Archives page than try to list them all here. Ghoulgotha is his take on early Cathedral's death-doom, and with just a hint of weirdness, it's among the most notable of his projects. They've taken the torch from Finland's Hooded Menace, who had a similar mission but lost their way to an eternal path of boredom. In their soph0more effort To Starve The Cross, Sarantopoulos loves to take what would be conventional, such as the vaguely Priest rhythms of “Abyssic Eyes” or Swedeath melodies littered throughout, and shake them up to bolster the lurching power of these songs. “Pangea Reforms” sounds metal as fuck just based on the title, and with a Disma-esque stomp, you can't help but think of the planet colliding onto itself once more. A lot of death metal dads (and dads at heart) desire to go back to the days of old – let's take that all the way and go pre-civilization! It's not all regression – the leads “Damp Breeze of Sleeping Veins” sound disjointed, played with the spirit of a No Wave kid who secretly loves death metal. If Sarantopoulos were to abandon most of his bands to focus on Ghoulgotha, Cross would prove he's on to something.
Few embody the individualism that characterizes USBM quite like Jute Gyte. Adam Kalmbach has steadily been putting out some of the most challenging black metal to come from anywhere, utilizing microtonal guitars . He also experiments with electronic music under the Jute Gyte moniker, and Purdurance, only his first release for 2016, is a meeting of those two sides. Leadoff track “At the Limit of Fertile Land” is perhaps the first black metal song to incorporate 808s, a fusion you'd never think of yet you can't imagine the underground landscape of now without. Not only that, there's also nods to Meshuggah's alienated push-pull groove, and even with that respite, the first half “Land” alone is denser than most band's whole discographies. Kalmbach also works with multiple simultaneous tempi (his words) here, making already some of the most batshit black metal out there create its own outre orbit. The main passage of “Like the Woodcutter Sawing His Hands” would make for lovely guitar ambient if it wasn't on a crash course to destroy itself. (Fennesz remix in the works, hopefully?) Purdurance, combined with the Blut Aus Nord/Aevangelist split (which I blurbed here), June was a good month for black metal to lose your mind to and never return.
Imagine a super catchy, gothy synth-pop band, only with totally grim and necro black metal production. That's Denver duo Tollund Men, who have released a slew of cassettes that bridge the gap between Darkthrone and Depeche Mode. Metal? Probably not. Metal-adjacent? Totally. Autoerotik came out back in April, but somehow eluded me until now. It stretches their lo-fi blackened dance to an album's length; the buzzy walls of bass and somnambulist goth groaning sound like Ian Curtis recreating “Isolation” over and over again from beyond the grave. Whatever synths that don't operate on a low frequency sound bent and dying, musical taffy that's unrecognizable but the flavor is still tantalizing. Beats operate on either militaristic precision or sputtering chaos; rhythm is king, however perverted they make it. There are melodies beneath all the noise and obscurity that sound even sweeter once you dig them out. Not to make it sound like you should have to work to enjoy music, but Autoerotik is an album that rewards peeling back the layers to find an esoteric dance party that both diehards and basics can groove to.
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