Quirks Of Humanity & Failing At Metal: A Columnus Metallicus For Summer
, August 8th, 2011 06:16
Our man Toby Cook pays tribute to Anal Cunt's Seth Putnam, before proceeding to tell you exactly what metal releases should be blasting your ears this summer
It's a quirk of humanity that we will always remember the villains but not those who inspire and create; you'll all know Charles Manson, but can anyone honestly say they are so fascinated by Norman Borlaug?. With that in mind, we start this month's column on a sombre and possibly controversial note by remembering Anal Cunt main-man Seth Putnam, who died of a suspected heart attack on the 13th of June, at the age of just 43.
It would easy to sit here atop my slightly retarded, possibly lame, grindcore high-horse and espouse the notion that Seth was a pioneer, a genius, and that those that don't get Anal Cunt should put their balls back in their purse and grow a sense of humour – but let's face it, musically, Anal Cunt were at best average and at worst just about un-fucking-listenable, yet the fact that most of you will know exactly who I'm talking about is testament to Seth's impact on extreme music.
In a statement his publicist called him "the GG Allin of grindcore" whereas I'd rather refer to him as a sort of Bernard Manning of grindcore. You see, by giving songs titles like 'You're Pregnant, So I Kicked You In The Stomach', or 'I Became A Counsellor So I Could Tell Rape Victims They Asked For It' you're going to offend a lot of people, but delivered as they are in such a puerile way and slotted alongside the likes of 'Being A Cobbler's Dumb' or the acoustic 'In My Heart There's A Star Named After You' (no, seriously!)... well, it's just fucking funny, isn't it? GG Allin was an obnoxious, self-obsessed cunt; Putnam was also probably pretty obnoxious, yet like many of us was also a funny and flawed human being. He survived a coma and then took the piss out of people in comas, provided guest vocals on a Pantera record (The Great Southern Trendkill) and, despite some of his song titles, pulled Anal Cunt out of a tour featuring Mark 'Chopper' Read (yes, the actual 'Chopper', from the film) allegedly due to the opening band having affiliations with a Nazi/Skinhead record label. Most of all though, he was easily more metal than you or me (and yes, this includes you too, Joey DiMiao) so let's remember that.
Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus (Seasons Of Mist)
"Oh yeah, here we go with the Morbid Angel bashing. We wondered when this was coming. YAWN!" Come on, be honest, that's what you're thinking, isn't? "Bit late aren't you? It's been out nearly two months already. What smart alec-y little witticisms can you possibly come out with that some terminally outraged little blogger – who probably wasn't even born when Altars Of Madness came out – hasn't already come out with, huh!?"
Well, how about this one: I like it (although, don't take that to mean that I wasn't shocked upon first hearing it, nor that I wasn't totally perplexed by it – I still am to a degree). It would have been really, really easy to give Illud Divinum Insanus one or two spins and then churn out a review proclaiming it to be, as certain blogs have, "embarrassing" or "the worst death metal album ever"; to have likened it to being arse-raped on your own doorstep by a neo-Nazi (yeah, I don't really get that one either) or even to have resorted to bad puns á la "poo extreme". One particular reviewer used up some 300 words making jokes before actually using the phrase "I'm not going to bother telling you what it's like musically – it's that bad." Seriously!? Then just fuck off altogether you shit-stained bumba-clart, because that's not a review, is it?
So, having done the sensible thing and lived with the album a few weeks, actually listened to it, and waited for the dust to settle, it might be worth explaining why I like it: because it's fucking Morbid Angel. Yes, the flirtations with a more industrial sound and almost techno arrangements on 'Too Extreme!' and 'Radikult' are still pretty shocking (the latter being nothing short of absolute fucking shit, to be frank) and on balance really have no place on a Morbid Angel album, yet the similarly influenced 'Destructos Vs. The Earth / Attack' is relentlessly, obscenely heavy – for my money just because it's not what you expect of Morbid Angel doesn't automatically make it shit. Elsewhere though, there are moments that even the most closed minded of fans should like: 'Existo Vulgoré' is classic Morbid Angel and contains one of the best death metal solos of the last eight years, 'Blades for Baal' might just be the fastest track the band have ever recorded and 'Nevermore' – which has been doing the rounds for some time in fairness – is already, with good reason, a staple of their live set.
Morbid Angel are among that rare breed of groups that have succeeded by never releasing the same album twice and whilst it's totally fair to point out that Illud... doesn't stand up to direct comparison with the likes of Blessed Are The Sick, Covenant and, of course, Domination, it's not like it's Chinese Fucking Democracy or St. Anger, is it? Or perhaps you'd rather just pick up the new Limp Bizkit album instead?
Ramesses - Possessed By The Rise Of Magik (Ritual Productions)
Another band fast developing a proclivity for not releasing the same album twice or, for that matter, sticking to uniform aesthetic choices, is Dorset doom trio Ramesses. Judging from their previous full length, Take The Curse, or the cover art, you might expect Possessed... to be somewhere between oppressive, impenetrable doom and the world's most severely pissed off Nirvana tribute band. What you get, however, is something truly outstanding. Whilst the basic doom formula is still in place, the riffs constructed for Possessed... trigger an overload of dimethyltryptamine production in the brain and leave you crawling around in the spaces between the reverberating, cavernous cacophony - and when, during 'Duel', Adam Richardson bellows "beneath the blackest rainbow" and starts growling out of time as if actually possessed, you're totally there with him. And it's fucking horrible... Gloriously fucking horrible.
ISIS - Live, Volumes 1 – 5 (Self Released)
Hello, my name's Toby and I am an ISIS addict. Over the years I've found that I've been listening to ISIS more and more and have eventually come to depend on them – it's often gotten to the stage where the first thing I do when I get up in the morning is listen to ISIS. Usually it's just a few minutes of 'Weight', from Oceanic, but more and more I don't care what it is – sometimes I'll even put the Mosquito Control EP on.
Increasingly I'll listen to them in secret, too, and make excuses to my friends like: 'Oh, I'm just, er, listening to some Russian Circles – yes, they do sound a bit like ISIS don't they?' ISIS have always been there for me – to share in my happiest moments and to comfort me at my saddest. I mean, that bit at the end of 'Dulcinea', uuuurrrrgghhh, just thinking about it... I know they've split up for now, but at least I still have a beard to stroke, and these, their career spanning Live, Volumes 1 – 5 (Reissues) to console me.
Err... actually, I don't know about that. ISIS were a phenomenally good live prospect. Yes they just stood there, but the power, the dynamics, the felling – I mean, how do you play the drums with as much feeling as Aaron Harris does? You're just hitting things! Unfortunately, very little of this comes across from these live recordings - especially volumes 1 and 3, which are essentially official releases of audience taped bootlegs, and as such the sound quality is fairly piss poor. But if you're an ISIS fan boy (and you should be), volumes 2 and 4 should definitely be sought out, if only to listen to at night, alone – you can tell your friends you've kicked the habit whilst revelling in the majesty of an 18 minute version of 'Celestial' and have your skull crushed by their improvised take on Nirvana's 'Endless, Nameless' (y'know, it's that hidden track at the end of Nevermind). After all, whiskey for the amputee and all that.
Wormrot - Dirge (Earache)
But it's not a dirge, 'cause it's like, y'know, grindcore. Innit? Not that matters one iota when you've got 18 minutes of shrill and filthy grind, though. Although being totally interchangeable with the group's previous full-length and at times too obviously displaying and admiration of both Insect Warfare and F.E.T.O.-era Napalm Death, with Dirge Singapore's premier (only?) grinders at least steer well clear of the trap so many grind bands have fallen into in recent years: that of either ripping off Pig Destroyer, or pretending they're Nasum (Rotten Sound, I'm looking at you here).
Sylosis - Edge Of The Earth (Nuclear Blast)
In case you hadn't noticed thrash is, like, so en vogue right now – y'know, the 'Big Four' and all that – and while the reverence being heaped upon the American mega-quartet at the moment is for the most part totally justified, it's difficult not to think that, if thrash has all of a sudden become cool again, shouldn't we be paying a bit more attention to the emerging talent? I mean, honestly, as great as the Big Four are they're almost totally trading on past glories – ask yourself would Death Magnetic really have sounded so good if St. Anger hadn't proceeded it? Having shit forced into your ear canal is pretty unpleasant, yet is certainly preferable to having a rusty coathanger forced down your pisshole, right?
Along with the likes of Mutant and Evile, Sylosis represent that emerging and British talent, and the disappointing dichotomy that exists with their four thrash-daddies. Despite the loss of vocalist Jamie Graham last year (with guitarist Josh Middleton taking on vocal duties), with Edge Of The Earth, the Reading-based foursome have produced one of the best British thrash albums of the last decade. Whilst it may be firmly rooted in the hyperfast, palm-muted riffing realm of thrash, it's the incorporation of subtle death metal sensibilities, the nods to the crushing dirges of Neurosis and the ability to find the room for the sort of epic, melody-infused prog passages Opeth would be proud of that makes you wonder why they aren't headlining bigger venues. And why you haven't bought this already.
US Christmas - The Valley Path (Neurot)
"A song does not have to be part of a collection. It is more important for the music to take the path it chooses, and an artist must be willing to let this happen. 'The Valley Path' is one song." (Nate Hall, USX)
He's right y'know. The Valley Path is one song – one epic song. But this idea itself is nothing new. Boris, Sleep, Billy Joel - they've all done it, and they've all done it pretty successfully (Boris' Feedbacker, in particular, is likely to grace my top 2 'til the earth rotates off its axis and sends what's left of us hurtling into oblivion...). Yet typically, there's something just that little bit different about how USX have done it. Although the space rock elements have been pared back to little more than a hued undercurrent The Valley Path shows little in terms of stylistic departure from the stunning, draining experience that was last year's Run Thick In The Night, and yet somehow it doesn't really feel so much like it was written at all. The 'Earth jamming with Neurosis over a Nick Cave/Warren Ellis score' vibe still pervades the overall sound, yet it feels more like the culmination of a thousand winds swirling the globe in the collection of sounds, histories, unspoken emotions and forgotten stories, and the channelling of them through the misty peaks of the Appalachian mountain ranges that have so clearly inspired them.
Tombs - Path Of Totality (Relapse)
Crust-tainted, black metal-imbued hardcore. Black metal-hued crusty hardcore. Hard-black-crust-metal-core... however you may want to categorise it, Tombs are one of best around, and like few bands get better and better each time they do it. Mike Hill's vocals sound like Scott Kelly dragging his fingers through animal carcasses as he's sucked into a meat grinder and the band have admirably resisted the temptation to employ the 'Entombed buzzsaw' guitar sound that is approaching over use amongst others in their genre. With this, Liturgy's Aesthethica and the imminent arrival of a new Wolves In The Throne Room record, it's shaping up to be a true annus horribilis supremis for US black metal.
Rival Sons - Pressure And Time (Earache)
Somewhere down in Louisiana, on the edge of a sun-parched highway partially hidden behind a haze of humidity, is a certain kind of strip club - the sort of strip club that it's OK to take your art teacher father into. And in that club the only thing on the juke box is the swaggering, blues-hued, Zeppelin-worshipping rock of Rival Sons. It'll be at about this point that you'll be double-taking at the word 'Earache' in brackets up there, before frantically Googling 'Rival Sons', seeing pictures of them dressed like bowling alley sex pests and wearing the sort of scarves that usually adorn Steven Tyler's mic' stand and wondering what the fuck's going on. Well, what the fuck's going on is that Earache have pulled off somewhat of a coup in signing a band that have classic blues riffs in spates, a ton of perfectly unnecessary drum fills, an undercurrent of totally acceptable cheese and more balls than a giant, mutated testicle covered in balls.... And most of all they've got soul, maaaannnn.
Pentagram - Last Rites (Metal Blade)
In the Pentagram universe music reached its technical and artistic peak in 1971 with Master Of Reality, and on the strength of Last Rites, it looks like Bobby Liebling hasn't bothered to buy any records since (although someone may have snuck a Saint Vitus LP on to his turntable now and then). And y'know what? When, after over 40 years, Pentagram are still releasing stuff like this I'm inclined to agree. In fact, if Bobby and Lee Dorian ever want to start some sort of club, I'm in! This is not to say that Last Rites is honed to slavish, vintage perfection though – it's not quite up there with Day Of Reckoning but thankfully avoids that 'recorded in a tin shed' quality of Sabbath's magnum opus; the riffs, too, although classically doom-y, are nonetheless classic doom, which makes you wonder why they took nearly seven years to release it. They are however making their live debut in the UK (I know, what the fuck, right!?) on December 9th at The Garage in London, so If you're not planning on attending: You. Fail. At. Metal.
Locrian/Horseback - Split 7" (Turgid Animal Records)
We at the Quietus (well, me, as far as I know) love a bit of Locrian – mostly due to the fact that the Chicago drone outfit have produced some stunning slabs of disorientating, glitch filled noise, meant to ruin your speaker cones and your relationship with your neighbours due to it causing their cat to turn itself inside out. Here, with only one side of a 7" to fill, the creeping grandeur of The Crystal World is replaced by the sort of noises that Sunn O))) banished to the bottom of the Mariana Trench lest anybody be foolish enough to attempt to plunder them. Over on the other side, North Carolina's Horseback have deposited the musical equivalent of that brief second of panic when you're caught in a wave and you think you're going to drown and a bit of piss comes out. Except it goes on for five odd minutes and is accompanied by what sounds like Alan Dubin straining for a shit in your ears. Not for everyone then. See you at Bloodstock, ya bastards!