Horns Up Ya Shitters! The Best Metal Of May Reviewed
, June 7th, 2012 08:52
Toby Cook is back from the drug sewer to inform us about the best metal albums of May. All together now... AIIIEEEEEEEEE!!!!!
In a slight change to our regularly scheduled programming – where I question the value of a life spent playing rock music to plants or putting bread on cats – here are some things I learned in honour of 'metal Friday' at ATP's recent I'll Be Your Mirror festival in London.
1) Here's a list of things that are better than Slayer
Yeah, short list, isn't it?
2) Don't pass your drugs around during Sleep; what you get back may not be what you gave away. Plus, what you get back might make you see things or feel like the entire room is tilting forward. And more lager is certainly not the cure, especially when it's nearly £5 for a pint of generic-piss-berg.
3) If by the time you've reached the summit of the hill on which Alexandra Palace is perched you have the appearance of an Afghan Hound that's been dragged through a lake of piss, while your shallow breathing has all the elegance and effectiveness of that of a man more than twice your age, it's perhaps time to rethink some of your lifestyle choices.
Bong Mana-Yood-Sushai (Ritual Productions)
Sleep's reissued masterpiece, Dopesmoker, is ripe for review this month, but you won't be finding it covered here for two very good reasons. Firstly, unless you're only reading this column out of contempt, there is really no excuse for you not already owning it, or at least knowing what to expect, and secondly there's literally no room for both it and a new Bong record in the same column. Mana-Yood-Sushai is just that big and that near-limitlessly expansive.
There was a time where Bong almost didn't make sense unless you'd smoked so much weed that David Ike started to make sense, you were worried that your landlord was a shape-shifting lizard alien and you thought that pure love and a bong made out of a drain pipe could save the world – fucking hippy! – not least due to the fact that their 'as live' recordings, whilst by no means shoddy, had a condensed, raw earthiness to them. Recorded in a professional studio, here Bong's tantric drone feels horizon-straddling and unfurls in eternally-resonating waves of slothful, relieving bliss. The clarity of the bass propelled 'Trees, Grass and Stone' especially seems to capture exactly what Bong must be hearing in their own heads.
Cattle Decapitation Monolith Of Inhumanity (Metal Blade)
That was a bit fucking serious. Although I'm sure Cattle Decapitation are no less serious, there's something inherently funny about the idea of 'vegetarian death/grind'. It sort of makes you think of things like 'I Cum Soy-based Protein Drink', 'Rotting Head, Of Lettuce' or 'Organically Grown And Ethically Sourced At Birth'. Or Hitler, or something. Funny or not though, this, in the heavy metal parlance, is a faster than fuck slab of fucking brutal sonic destruction. If you think Agoraphobic Nosebleed have gotten too slow, or that most death metal's gone a bit too 'beat-down-y' (it has!), this is the shit for you. Impressively they've even found room for some moments of warped melody that have, by contrast, allowed them to go even heavier with tracks like 'Gristle Licker' that will actually beat you up. Ethically, of course.
Horseback Half Blood (Relapse)
At the risk of losing what little credibility I have left I have a confession to make. The first time I heard Converge, I didn't like them. I even went out and bought Jane Doe and gave it multiple spins, and do y'know what? I just couldn't get into it. To this day I can't tell you why. Somehow though, several months later, while getting stoned with my friend Gary – an authority figure in abrasive music and Star Trek in the Norwich area – Jane Doe hit the stereo and everything fell into place; the violent and precise majesty of it finally leapt out and I was converted for life.
Horseback are not Converge and Half Blood is not Jane Doe, but the moral of the story here is that of persistence and repeated listens, children. You'll probably read that Half Blood lacks both the compelling yet meditative folk tainted riffs and perfectly realised build of The Invisible Mountain and that it relies too heavily on ambient drone numbers similar to those on The Gorgon Tongue. And it probably does – it just shouldn't take an ounce of White Widow to make you eventually realise that their bravery has paid off, and that that's what makes it a pretty fucking great record after all.
Witchsorrow God Curse Us (Rise Above)
Whilst there's an increasingly innumerable amount of bands creating doom-y mantras from the same sonic palette as Sleep and Electric Wizard these days... there's something about Witchsorrow. Past the Sleep-like doom riffs and the occultist, pagan-y shtick, amongst their glacially slow sonic mud is a sort of simmering nausea – like you expect to find them in the toilets clutching the master tapes and chanting "this is my doom band, there are many like it but this one is mine", before shooting R. Lee Emery in the chest. The nine minute 'Masters Of Nothing' especially (to continue a crap metaphor) is pretty much the doom equivalent to that scene being re-enacted at half speed, with Lee Dorian from Cathedral playing Pyle.
Unsane Wreck (Alternative Tentacles)
For some reason noise rock is an often and much maligned genre. I say 'for some reason' as there are some fucking brilliant noise rock bands – like Part Chimp, Dethscalator or AIDS Wolf for fuck sakes! One of the true daddies of the scene, though, is undoubtedly Unsane, and as anyone who saw their London show the other night will know they're as unhinged and insanely loud as always. They're still more firmly rooted in their hardcore ways than many of their contemporaries and there's little change in their dense yet brittle riffs, but that's exactly why Wreck works so well, it's a crystallisation of everything that makes Unsane Unsane, right down to a paint stripping cover of Flipper's 'Ha Ha Ha'. And there's a sing-a-long, almost power ballad in there too. But I'm not going to tell you which one, because I'm not very nice.
Royal Thunder CVI (Relapse)
I guess at some point we'll all experience a midlife crisis – I for one am constantly worried I might be lapsing into one and have to remind myself that I'm not yet 30 and barely have the financial means to buy socks, let alone a Porsche, on increasingly regular occasions. When I do get there though, and I'm longing to relive the past, I want to be able to make music like Royal Thunder (although since I have all the musical talent of one of those heavily inbred goats you see on farms that just spends all day head-butting a gate post, that won't happen). Royal Thunder are as retro as they come, pulling in the scope and heavy blues of Zeppelin and the riffs of Sabbath or Saint Vitus, yet there's also a fiercely unique, ethereal majesty to their lengthier compositions. Propelled by Mlny Parsonz's booming, soulful vocals, this is likely to be one of the best records you're going to hear all year. If you like that sort of thing. which you should.
Acephalix Deathless Master (Southern Lord)
If you've ever caught yourself thinking: "I just can't get on with Black Breath, they're just not crusty enough; they're just not death metal enough" then that's ok, the first step is admitting that you've got a problem. And you have got a problem, I am going to judge you for it and we can no longer be friends. But before I delete you from my Facebook friend list, un-follow you on Twitter and we argue about whose copy of Rio it is, allow me to give you this – if you've got a real death/crust itch it'll definitely scratch it. Pretty much picking up where their last LP, Interminable Night, left off Deathless Master is so fucking crusty, so fucking full of d-beats it should be impossible for it to be as belligerently death metal as it is in terms of sheer songcraft. Add that to the fact that Daniel Butler's vocals have a slight black metal bent on them – sounding as they do like Ancient's Aphazel in a wind tunnel – and you've got a quite genius album. You'll like it, and then we can get this train wreck of a relationship back on track.
Grand Magus The Hunt (Nuclear Blast)
Throughout these columns I very frequently accuse people of "failing at metal" or lazily attempt to coerce people in to buying albums by telling them they'll "fail at metal" if they don't. And yet some cheeky little sack of Gene Simmons' sweaty, rancid codpieces (you know who you are) suggested to me recently that I fail at metal because I don't cover any "proper metal" and I like Duran Duran! So how about some Grand Magus up your ass then, huh!? A band more metal than Mechagodzilla. Funnily enough though, with The Hunter the Swedes have been braver and, err, tidier than ever. They still command that particularly Scandinavian attitude to NWOBHM and plunder later era Sabbath riffs, yet as well as a further improvement in the power and range of JB's vocals they've added some decidedly un-metal acoustic guitars without resorting to Extreme like, 'More Than Words' ballad fuckwittery.
Fear Factory The Industrialist
You're probably thinking that Fear Factory have no place in this column; you're probably thinking that the last time you heard from them they were queefing out U2 covers and that they haven't done anything decent since that version of 'Cars'. We'll you're wrong, not least because that cover of 'Cars' is fucking shit, but also because in 2010 original guitarist Dino Cazares rejoined the ranks and they quietly(ish) released Mechanize, arguably their heaviest and best album since '98's Obsolete. And the reason they belong here, propping up this shoddy column, is that The Industrialist might just be the best album they've ever made. All the groove, the melody and the relentless, punishing industrial aggression they made their name with, yet only now, with the addition of a drum machine does it feel perfectly realised. It's epic, and easily the best of its kind you're going to hear until that new Godflesh LP comes out.
Black Shape Of Nexus Negative Black (Exile On Mainstream)
Ah, more hipster doom. I'm forever battling my own cognitive dissonance when it comes to hipster doom – Monarch, Bongripper, Black Shape Of Nexus… all hipster, all awesome. When I interviewed these dudes for Metal Hammer their vocalist Malte Seidel suggested that the genre's popularity was perhaps down to it being "the holy grail of trueness", adding "maybe people are deaf and this is the last type of sound they are able to hear with their damaged ear?" Whatever the reason, what B.SON have created here is that scene at the end of Bad Lieutenant where Harvey Keitel has a emotional breakdown in a church – the sound of all your emotional neuroses being violently expunged, but with huge doom riffs, like the 19 minute dirge of '10000 µF'.
Done. Next month: Ihsahn, Melvins, bowling, driving around and the occasional acid flashback. Horns up, ya shitters!