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Horns Up Ya Shitters! June's Best Metal Reviewed
Toby Cook , July 6th, 2012 07:41

Unsheath your broadswords and prepare to pillage the realm of riffs as Toby Cook reviews this month's metal releases

The question on no one’s lips: “What completely asinine things has he learned this month?”

1) When you’re sat in someone’s kitchen at 6:30 in morning, having spent the night chewing a hole through your face and ‘dancing’ to drum & bass and possibly, but hopefully not, some garage too, don’t start talking to girls about OM. OM are a great band, but don’t start banging on about the meditative and ethereal aspects of Al Cisneros’ riffs. And don’t start delving into the spiritual and religious aspects of their music and about how existence is mere vibration either. It’s probably pretty off putting and makes you look a little weird.

3) I’m not sure if getting a picture of myself in Metal Hammer wearing a pink fluffy hat is the most or the least metal thing I’ve ever done.

2) On reflection neither of those things make me look particularly metal, do they!?

Ihsahn Erimita

What exactly it might be that constitutes tr00 kvlt black metal these days I don’t know, and I don’t really give a shit; it’s probably irrelevant anyway, you didn’t pick up a first run copy of A Blaze In The Northern Sky or Live In Leipzig and neither did I, we were both still listening to Nirvana and you know we were. The reality is that for most of us we’ve only really been experiencing the shock waves of black metal, the blackened ripples lapping at our corpse painted faces, the initial sonic impact zone virtually beyond our gaze.

But actually none of that matters, because almost as inexplicable as Napalm Death giving us some of bravest and most forward thinking artists in underground music, so too has the Norwegian back metal scene given us people like Ihsahn. There was always something that marked out Emperor; they always seemed bigger, grander and more expansive, but as a solo artist the man known to his mother as Vegard Sverre Tveitan has consistently released records that, whilst righteously progressive and fiercely unique, have always had that black metal attitude at their heart, and his fourth attempt Erimita is arguably the most perfect realisation of that approach. Although at times sounding like a less boring, less polished Dream Theatre, there are stand out moments here too innumerable to mention. The blast beat-ed fury of ‘The Paranoid’; the haunting, organ lead ‘The Departure’ – which contains a stunning vocal performance from his missus – and every moment Jorgen Munkeby of Norway’s Shining lends his unique saxophone strangulations to proceedings. It’s not black metal, it’s not prog or symphonic metal, it’s proof that you can stay true to your heritage whilst always seeking progression; it’s one of the best metal records of the year.

The Melvins Freak Puke

Or ‘Melvins-lite’, I suppose. Does it make any difference? No. No it doesn’t. As I still can’t think of anything funny to say I may as well make another confession, that as much as I love the Melvins, and I do, I find them one of the most infuriatingly difficult bands to get into. And yes I am one of those people you hate that thinks Stoner Witch and Stag are fucking great albums; that isn’t at all fussed by Lysol, likes the blunt force trauma of Gluey Porch Treatments and thinks that, as a friend recently said, (A) Senile Animal is “totally un-fuck-with-able”. All of which is probably why I get so much out of Freak Puke. Although less percussively bludgeoning, stripping themselves back to a three piece – getting Trevor Dunn on board to play upright bass is a stroke of genius – for the first album in years they perfectly intertwine the groovy, stoner-ish rock of old with elements of jazz fusion and out and out twisted avant garde-y-ness. Like on ‘Holy Barbarians’ which manages to be both tranquil and deeply unsettling.

Gojira L’Enfant Sauvage

You will tell yourself that you’re going to cook tonight, but you will end up getting drunk and buying a frozen pizza instead. It will rain tomorrow. People will buy the next Metallica album, even though it will be fairly crap (no one will say this at the time). And right now Gojira are the best live band on the entire fucking planet. Not only are they at the peak of their live prowess, with L’Enfant Sauvage Gojira are now genuinely amongst the likes of Tool and Mastodon, creating not only technically bewildering but also brutally unique music that should be able to sell out arenas without compromising their integrity. They’ve obviously not left behind their ultra-tight, percussive take on death metal with numbers like opener ‘Explosia’, but the reach of their prog has gone stratospheric; this is their Black Album, their Led Zeppelin IV their The Stranger . Another album of the year contender – June’s been a good month, hasn’t it!?

Heavy Blanket Heavy Blanket
(Outer Battery)

Probably, the idea of the sound of J Mascis wanking in his garage doesn’t sound very appealing, even less so perhaps when I tell you he’s doing it with two old friends from high school. What about if I tell you that one’s a former recluse who, until recently, had given up music altogether, whilst the other’s a gentleman on parole for passing around moody dollar bills? What about if I tell you that these two friends were kicked out of their high school marching band for smoking weed, out of a fucking tuba! Now what if I tell you that Heavy Blanket is six slabs of lengthy, fuzzy as fuck, warm stoner-y jams – not the J Mascis indulge-a-thon you might have expected but tight, virtuosic instrumental grooves in the vein of Earthless or The Atomic Bitchwax. This will probably turn out to be better than the new Dinosaur Jr. record too, to be fair.

Martyrdöd Paranoia
(Southern Lord)

Yes, that’s right Sherlock, I don’t really like Dinosaur Jr. So what? C’mon, Farm undoubtedly had its moments but it mostly sounded like a less crap Foo Fighters. So, before anyone becomes so enraged they spill their bong water all over their rug (I don’t want that, it’s a nice rug man, it really ties the room together) let’s talk about crust, because I fucking love crust.

And clearly so do Southern Lord, as it appears that they’re trying to sign every half decent Scandinavian crust band on the planet, which is fine by me if they’re all as impenetrably tight and as wretchedly chaotic as Martyrdöd. Yet where as label mates and compatriots like Wolfbrigade hit more hardcore targets, Martyrdöd are d-beat bastards chomping at the death metal bit in the way that Skitsystem used to – there’s no let up, things are constantly on the edge to the point where the vocals always sound like they’re about to just give up completely. I genuinely hate to make comparisons like this because they’re reductive, and these guys are an entity in themselves, but if Skitsystem never put out another record, this’ll do. Yeah, it’s almost that fucking good.

Turbonegro Sexual Harassment

No one seems to have mentioned it so far – or at least, certainly not enough – but Tony Sylvester must have big brass bollocks the size of those wooden globes that Bond villains keep their liquor in to have stepped up to replace former front man Hank Von Helvete. Seriously, he must know how Dio felt replacing Ozzy, except that the Turbojugen are far less forgiving than Sabbath fans. Those who booed him at Supersonic last year must feel like fucking pricks now however, because whilst by no means flawless Sexual Harassment is killer from start to finish. Easily their rawest, most stripped down and punk LP in years, Sylvester hasn’t attempted to emulate Helvete, rather his marginally gruffer delivery is somehow imbued with a knowing cheekiness, albeit a cheekiness that gets you a court order banning you for life from your local lido. Proper solos, lyrical non sequiturs and carnal humour – what’s not to like?

Thirteenth Sign Rise Of The Black Angel
(Poisoned Earth)

Mustard, a socialist rebellion , a shopping mall under a castle… and… Err… Alan Partridge, sort of. Oh yeah, and Tim fucking Westwood (although we like to keep quiet about that one). Yes, it’s fair to say that Norwich has given us several things over the last two millennia, but death metal bands? Quite how it is that Thirteenth Sign hail from the ‘A-ha’ city is totally beyond me, but clearly what they’ve been doing, hiding amongst the hay bales, is quietly honing their craft to a perfunctory, brutal brilliance, cloaked in the thrashier approach of early Death and with a tip of the farmers cap to the sharper, prog-ier end of the NWOBHM – illustrated with 13 minute closer ‘Ophiuchus’ Reign’. There’s shredding aplenty too, and occasionally weak vocals aside, this is exactly why I think it’s so fucking stupid that we in the UK don’t do enough to support our death metal scene; if you like DM there’s no reason to not support these dudes.

Nile At The Gate Of Sethu
(Nuclear Blast)

I know I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t have death metal in ancient Egypt – although they have it in Norwich now so I guess anything’s possible. But no, they obviously didn’t. Supposedly they didn’t even have the wheel and in any case were probably too busy helping aliens build pyramids. And therein lays the secret of Nile, for despite the fact that on the surface they’ve always played and continue to play what is essentially dense, ultra technical death metal, they somehow imbue it with a uniquely middle eastern atmosphere; they just sound so much like ancient Egypt even though they obviously don’t, if you know what I mean. More impressive still is that after a couple of iffy releases At The Gate Of Sethu is arguably the best thing they’ve released since 2002’s Annihilation Of The Wicked; the production is a little sparser and between the unyielding assault there’s room for the ineffable eastern atmosphere – brought on mainly by extensive use of classical middle eastern instrumentation – to swirl and waft and envelop.

Furze Psych Minus Space Control
(Fysisk Format)

Psychedelic black metal!? We spoke last month, I think in relation to Horseback’s new LP, about the importance of perseverance and repeated listens and if proof were even needed of the benefit of this approach then Furze’s new record is that proof. In the interest of full disclosure, when this first came across my desk I just couldn’t get into it; I listened to it once and moved on. It was in fact only when I found myself one album short for this column that I revisited it and now I feel like a massive thunder twat for ever having left it out. Ok, so there are some barriers to enjoyment – purposefully erected ones too I suspect. like the fact that the production values are nonexistent, to the point that it kind of makes Transylvanian Hunger look like a Rush album, and the fact that black metal and psychedelic space rock make uncomfortable bedfellows at the best of times. Yet the scope and the baser execution here is fucking brilliant; tranquil to unsettling to unhinged and anarchic, it’s like Darkthrone playing Hawkwind in a tin shack. Unless you’ve heard Furze before, you’ve heard nothing like this.

Metallic Taste Of Blood Metallic Taste Of Blood
(Rare Noise Records)

And you’ve likely never heard anything like Metallica Taste Of Blood either. I once tried talking to my father, the man largely responsible for introducing me to metal via repeated plays of AC/DC’s For Those About To Rock and Van Halen’s 5150, about jazz, to which he responded: “That crap! Eight guys on stage playing eight totally different things at totally different speeds; rubbish.” I suspect his reaction to MTOB would be somewhat similar. Arguably, if anyone else tried a project of this scope it would fail miserably yet one look at the musicians involved here tells you all you need to know: Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin; Obake guitarist Eraldo Bernocchi; Hungarian drummer Balazs Pandi who’s drummed with the likes of Merzbow and Venetian Snares; and pianist Jamie Shaft of New Zion Trio. From spacey, lysergic meanders and full on spazz/jazz collisions to grating, atmospheric noise and tight, at times almost hip-hop drumming; the best moments however are ultimately when, as on ‘King Cockroach’, they hit a horn dropping, metal as fuck sludgy riff.

Coming next month: OM, Gaza and… What do you think about the pedestrianisation of Norwich city centre?

Horns up, ya shitters!

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