There’s a lot you can about Jeff Hanneman, but first and foremost: he was in Slayer. Pour one out for Jeff and play this one loud tonight.
Zozobra made a small run of East Coast dates earlier this month in support of their new EP Savage Masters (which is great, check it). They ended the tour at Boston’s Great Scott, a short 5 minute walk from my apartment. They slayed. Kowloon Walled City, also along for the ride, blew me away.
Then I wrote about it. I took some really bad pictures as well. Give it a read. Count how many times I use the word “crushing.”
Man’s Gin has announced a new album, Rebellion Hymns, to be released May 28th on Profound Lore. The band has yet to release any music from the upcoming sophomore release, but I think we can expect more dark Americana, down-tempo folk and apocalyptic themes.
I’m way late to the Man’s Gin party. I only played Smiling Dogs for the first time a week ago and it hasn’t stopped playing since. Stream it here at Profound Lore’s bandcamp. Just play the whole thing, it’s remarkably sequenced and works best as an entire piece. And drink to it.
The newest Ash Borer record, Bloodlands, just saw a surprise release on bandcamp. The inital plan was to release it digitally after the vinyl was available, but apparently there’s been numerous issues with test pressings. Bad news for the band, good news for us. Go to their bandcamp and stream it and/or buy it.
2013 is already looking good. Real good. New albums from some of my favorite bands are imminent.
KEN mode - Entrench. The followup to their 2011 “breakthrough” Venerable, Entrench continues to traverse the noisy, hardcore landscape these Winnipeg natives have cultivated for the last 10 years, while adding a new sense of fury and more than a few surprises (the strings on opener “Counter Culture Complex” and the entirety of “Romeo Must Never Know”). I saw these guys play last week and they blew me away. Stream it at Pitchfork; out March 19 via Season of Mist.
Batillus - Concrete Sustain. Also out March 19, this time via Seventh Rule Recordings. Concrete Sustain is Batillus at their most cohesive and catchy, seemlessly merging bone-crushing doom with electronics and industrial noise to create one of the best records of the year (sweeping declaration). This one is streaming at MetalSucks.
Kvelertak - Meir. Kvelertak exploded following the release of their self-titled debut in 2010. Three years of fairly relentless touring (including a couple of stints in the States) have done nothing but strengthen these Nords’ songwriting and playing. Anthemic, ecstatic, retro without being dumb, Meir will be the most fun you have all year. If you don’t then fuck you. See these dudes live, they’re insanely enjoyable. Debut single “Bruane Brenn” is a blast. Meir is out on Roadrunner March 22.
Also coming down the pipeline are new records by Deafheaven, Altar of Plagues and Zozobra. No music has been released to previewany of these releases, but keep them on your radar as all three are rock solid bands who according to reports) are pushing their respective sounds in new directions.
It’s been about 3 months since Dragged into Sunlight released the underwhelming Widowmaker, a record that left me wanting more and deeply disappointed. It took 3 years for DiS to release a followup to Hatred for Mankind, but for their next, it may be a much quicker turnaround.
The band have just released a single-song collaboration with Gnaw Their Tongues, currently streaming on Vagrant Recordings soundcloud page. Per DiS’ facebook, the band has begun work on material in the vein of Hatred for Mankind (if you read any interviews for Widowmaker, they repeatedly said it was not intended as a direct followup to the debut, yadayada, whatever). This track appears to be a standalone piece of work, but if it’s any indication of where the Dragged “collective” is heading, count me in.
Low-fi, harsh, heavy on the samples, violent, and feral: this is Dragged into Sunlight the way I love it. Gone is Widowmaker’s lack of focus and attempt at the epic, returning is Hatred’s immediacy and fury. The opening and closing minutes are the most electronic I’ve ever heard the band, but when the song bursts open, it’s vintage Dragged into Sunlight.
Listen now and listen often. The band claims this will disappear soon. I expect lots of blogspot rips, but given the DiS’ penchant for filing DMCA claims, even those might be hard to find.
UPDATE 2/19: It’s gone.
2013 is still in its infancy but already some great new music is being released. Winnipeg’s KEN Mode just premiered the opening track from their soon-to-be-released fifth album Entrench.
“Counter Culture Complex” is signature KEN Mode: muscly, frantic drumming, fret-shredding metal/punk chords (treated with some math), and Jesse Mathewson’s spewed vocals, a mixture of gruff yelps and furious growls. New to the equation is the strings which open the track and the insanely anthemic chorus (I can’t wait to hear this one live). KEN Mode has always sounded intense and huge, but the band seem to have hit a new level in their recordings.
Entrench is out March 5 on Season of Mist. And continuing their never-ending tour cycle, KEN Mode is heading out with Fight Amp, Today is the Day and Black Tusk.
2012’s Overrated Albums
1. Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction. Sorry guys, but I just don’t get it. I’ve read countless glowing reviews of this record (not to mention the predictable amount of year-end lists giving it the #1 spot) and after numerous listens I was left with the same feeling I had on my first experience with it: “I just don’t get it.” It’s excruciatingly slow to start, middling, predictable, Sabbath worshiping to the point of fault, and frankly, very, very dull. Warning achieved this sort of thing almost a decade ago and did a much better job. I’m repeating myself but: I just don’t get it. Also, I resent being told I have to like something, which is what the coverage of this record felt like.
2. Baroness - Yellow & Green. This could have been a decent record, but as a double album it’s wretched. Of the roughly 15 songs presented, 3 are phenomenal (“March to the Sea” is my song of the year, hands down), about 6 are good and the rest are remarkably forgettable. Yellow is the superior of the two, but as it’s own record even it isn’t very good. The biggest criticism Baroness received this year was that they became a rock band, forsaking their metal roots. I don’t care, just make good records. (I will however say that the lyrical content [broken bones, pain, suffering] is shockingly prescient and fascinating given the tragic accident these fellas suffered earlier this year; let’s hope they come back stronger than ever once rehab ends)
3. Blut Aus Nord - 777: Cosmosophy. Blut Aus Nord has always felt blown out of proportion to me. I don’t not like them, but their records are continually a slog and Cosmosophy, like it’s 2 predecessors, is no change. This was the most highly praised black metal record of the year and given that it isn’t even black metal, that says a lot about the current opinion of the genre.
4. Dragged into Sunlight - Widowmaker. Perhaps nothing else this year was (to me) a bigger let down. I had strong hopes for this record (see this) and was sorely disappointed. The band kept saying this is a conceptual record, a cohesive piece of music meant to be experienced as a whole and therefore is a singular piece of music, but I don’t buy it. The transitions are too abrupt, the individual songs feel bloated and lacking in substance (except for Part II, which is astounding), and the cohesion just isn’t there. I’m terribly conflicted in my hatred for this record because it could have been so much more. Part II is the single most terrifying song released this year (the opening shriek of this track is amongst the best I’ve ever heard) and the perfect example of DiS making long-form music.However, the rest of the record is boring, longwinded and just plain bad (Part I is inexcusable and Part III is sleep-inducing). Oh what could have been…
There are other records I could name (Anhedonist, Samothrace, Bell Witch [and honestly I like these records, I just don’t think they’re great) but to do so would feel mean and like bullying. I stand by the above 4 however.
2012 will be remembered as the year of Doom. Black metal is slowly fading into the background (but stronger than ever if you ask me), sludge is all but non-existent (and most of the big sludge bands have become rock bands now), thrash is still thrashy (and dull as skim milk), and death pretty much maintains it’s status quo (no comment). Doom however has started to push boundaries, adopting aspects of other genres and in the process creating some massively compelling records.
The three big Doom records this year were Pallbearer’s Sorrow and Extinction (which bored me to no end; I truly don’t understand the press and hype this band and record have gotten), New Jersey veterans Evoken’s Atra Mors (which is a great, challenging record) and Portland-based Aldebaran’s Embracing the Lightless Depths (my favorite Doom record of the year). Anhedonist, Indesinence, Bell Witch and Saint Vitus all released high-profile and good records this year as well, but none of them hit home like Aldebaran did.
At well over an hour, Embracing the Lightless Depths is a cavernous record, one that I’ve gotten lost inside of with each listen. With just 2 actual songs (and three interludes), Aldebaran crafted the biggest and heaviest Doom record of the year, and one that demands to be played end to end in a single session. What kept me coming back was the depth and intricacies of each track. It’s impossible to take everything in on just a few listens and with each new spin I found something else to grab my attention.
Repetitive, crushing riffs, minimal drumming and sparse but terrifying vocals create an atmosphere of desolation, a feeling of being completely unmoored. Nothing else felt this massive and intimidating in 2012.