Horns Up Ya Shitters! October's Best Metal Reviewed
, November 15th, 2012 07:55
After narrowly escaping murder at the hands of boozing bastards in his native Norfolk, Toby Cook is back with reviews of De Magia Veterum, Neurosis, Krisiun, Von, Weapon, Ichabod, Converge, Anaal Nathrakh and Pig Destroyer
Exactly, you wait six odd weeks for one and then before you've had a chance to wash the stains from your mind along comes another. And since last time…
1) "Aston (Be Sure To Wear Some Glass In Your Face)" Ozzy Osbourne, 1967(ish)
This year's Supersonic festival in Birmingham was once again the highlight of my year (finding that tenner in the pub toilets back in February was a distant, distant second in the end) yet as is so often the case, and in the best way possible, some of the best things associated with the festival are those events taking place away from the music - the 'Crossroads Of Sabbath' walking tour being an exceptional example. Yes, it was pretty fucking cool to see Ozzy's childhood home (I had a little moment; it was very emotional) but the tour that creator and guide Rob Horrocks has put together is so much more than just a metalhead's gawk and walk, it's more a psychogeographical potted social history that provides invaluable context to a band and a seemingly unremarkable area that have both been so instrumental in the history of music. And it ends in a pub, which is great if you're not on a comedown and struggling to find enough words to hold a conversation. Tours are running again in the New Year – check out the Crossroads Of Sabbath Facebook page for the exact time and dates. I can't recommend it enough.
2) Sometimes it's easy to forget what you look like. I'm not exactly Tom G Warrior circa 1983, but there's nothing like the look on the faces of people who look like decrepit extras from Wartime Farm when you walk in to their local boozer in Summerisle-esque village, north Norfolk, hair down and wearing a Nachtmystium t-shirt. The barman genuinely gave me directions with specific reference to the graveyard.
3) Scrub as hard as you like, you'll never wash the stains from your mind.
Neurosis - Honor Found in Decay
Have you ever pressed the palms of your hands over your open eyes so tightly that all light is blocked out and just stared into the darkness (I mean on purpose, not just when you're alone, drunk and crying because of the shambles your life has deliquesced into)? After a short time there's a strange sense of both confinement and limitless expanse; that you're staring into the infinite void whilst simultaneously trapped by the clawing claustrophobia of it. It's the same sort of sensation that I've always felt when listening to Neurosis' better albums – Through Silver In Blood, Times Of Grace/Grace and A Sun That Never Sets especially – but something that has, although not been totally lacking, felt slightly contrived on their last couple of LP's. But not anymore; not at any moment during the 60 minutes of Honor Found in Decay.
A lot's been made in plenty of other reviews of the half decade between this and the Californians' last outing, Given To The Rising, the wealth of extracurricular activities that Scott Kelly, Steve Von Till and Jason Roeder in particular have been involved with over those five years, and the perceived impact they've had on the songs here. But in truth Honor…, if anything, represents the start of the next chapter of Neurosis, one in which all external desires have been dealt with, culminating in their most diverse and cohesive album in over a decade. The brutal, tribal heaviness is still there – most punishingly evident in Roeder's relentless battery during 'At The Well' – but it's the moments of Slint-esque tranquillity in the likes of 'My Heart For Deliverance' and the hugely prominent grinds, glitches and nuances injected in to the very pores of the album by Noah Landis that make this a work of art to truly behold.
Pig Destroyer - Book Burner
The first time I met my best mate Gary, many, many years ago now, we were both working at H&M in Norwich and he'd turned up for work wearing a Pig Destroyer t-shirt with the Terrifyer
However, it took me far longer to get on so well with Pig Destroyer themselves. The dark depravity of J. R. Hayes' lyrics and short stories and their no-bass-allowed, none-more-punk attitude always set them apart from a great slew of other grind bands, but on the likes of Terrifyer and the appropriately titled 38 Counts Battery the relentless micro-song approach proved almost too much. 2007's Phantom Limb somewhat redressed the balance with comparatively longer tracks that allowed ideas to develop but, in an interesting parallel with Neurosis, it felt uncomfortably contrived; the riffs just weren't there. As with Neurosis, we've waited five years for Book Burner, and fuck me with rusty coat hanger was it worth it: 19 songs in 30 minutes, ideas that both develop and destroy, brutality and depravity ('Machiavellian' especially will probably give you a brain aneurism). It's no use, you simply can't repel riffs of this magnitude!
Anaal Nathrakh - Vanitas
As anyone who saw them headline the second stage at this year's Bloodstock will attest, Anaal Nathrakh's performance was undoubtedly one of the most powerful and intimidating examples of controlled anarchy you're ever likely to see. On record though, and with each passing LP, they become oddly, almost paradoxically 'catchy', to the extent that upon first hearing Vanitas I flippantly referred to it as 'apocalypse pop' and as a consequence have since driven myself mental trying to work out exactly what I meant by it. Things got so bad that I even had a nightmare where I was being chased by a radiation sickness riddled Britney Spears through John Martin's The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah as she screamed "Mamma, why don't ya love me Mamma!?", which was deeply unsettling.
But I think I've sussed it. Unlike many a death/grind/black metal outfit Anaal Nathrakh obviously love the studio, and the production on Vanitas is luscious – it's dense and impenetrable, but it's also a masterful coalescing of elements where each industrial riff, every roar, scream, glitch and blast is individually weaponized and set to kill – if that means being infected by the opening riff of 'Todos Somos Humanos' so you hum it on the bus, then so be it. I'll always love The Codex Necro but this is close to being one of the best albums they've ever made.
Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
The first time man, the first time; it's always the best, most intense time, and in one way or another you'll spend the rest of your life chasing that dragon, that girl or that riff, trying to recapture the way you felt the first time you heard it, felt it and experienced it. But spare a thought for the dealers in our little analogy here, because whatever they hook you up with afterwards is going to seem just that little bit shitty by comparison.
I spoke some months ago about how I first fell in love with Converge, and Jane Doe especially, and whilst it's inarguably their masterpiece there will nonetheless always be that gnawing sense that whatever they do, every other album they'll ever make will never be it; last time out Axe To Fall came damn close, and as diverse and complete an albums as All We Love… is, it somehow seems even further away. Don't get me wrong, this is still an albums so good that any other crusty hardcore band would give their left testicle to make it – the sludgy 'Coral Blue' is one of the most brutal yet oddly tender songs they've ever written and the scorching blast of 'Sparrows Fall' wouldn't look out of place on When Forever Comes Crashing – yet comparison, as is so often the case, is the real killer.
Ichabod - Dreamscapes From Dead Space
And the prize for lyric of the month (yeah, I'm doing that now) goes to Ichabod, who, totally aside from the fact that they heavily reference one of the greatest westerns ever made, and the best film Val Kilmer's ever done, Tombstone, (C'mon, that Doors movie is a bit cack and you know it is) have crafted this gem of a chorus: "Tell them I'm coming, and hell's coming with me / Tell them the lord above ain't got shit on me." Fucking genius.
Boston's Ichabod have actually be kicking around for well over a decade now but as with so many albums covered this month Dreamscapes… is undoubtedly their strongest, most expansive effort to date – imagine Kyuss jamming with Hawkwind while Weedeater sit in a corner packing your favourite skull bong full of PCP laced weed, in the fourth dimension. Or something like that. Thanks to the wealth of huge stoner riffs, tranquil meanders and the vast, soulful range of John Fadden's vocals I've totally unexpectedly enjoyed this more than any other album this month.
Between The Buried And Me - The Parallax II: Future Sequence
Over on the other side of the same genre confounding, astral gazing, psychedelic coin…
Do you fancy some death-infused, occasionally melodic, intermittently jazz-wank math metal that somehow still finds room for emotionally charged piano meanders and even the odd moment of glockenspiel (about halfway the otherwise astounding 'Extremophile Elite') that sounds like it's been lifted from one of those lens cleaning CDs that we've all got 20 of because you can never find one when you need it? Possibly not. Yet nonetheless you need to make room in your life for Between The Buried And Me. It's hard to throw so many styles into one pot and not create something that sounds desperate and shit, but on this, the full LP accompaniment to last year's The Parallax I: Hypersleep Dialogues EP, the North Carolinian quartet have, via a surround-wrap of face-melting, off kilter riffs, created something that is not only mental but compelling, and better than any djent album ever made by any one, ever. Oh, and there's a flue in there somewhere too. Ridiculous.
Weapon - Embers And Revelations
It's one of the many things to love about metal, isn't it: The fact that you can make albums that are ostensibly wrapped in hugely silly artwork and contain massively cheesy song titles, yet that are still, somehow, awesome – there's a time and a place for concept albums based around Being And Nothingness with tastefully shot black and white photo artwork, but sometimes (most times) you need bands like Bangladeshi/Canadian black-death bastards Weapon and their Relapse debut. Cover art that expertly crams in a tiger, a wolf, a skull, snakes and cryptic imagery, and tracks titled such things as 'Crepuscular Swamp' and 'Grotesque Carven Portal' – it's what metal's all about. But you've still got to have the chops to back that Satanic loving shit up, and whilst Weapon rarely step out of their tight genre confines, when you've got a platter 'o splatter that's as much Morbid Angel and Massacre as it is Belphegor and Behemoth, why would you want them to?
Krisiun - Arise From Blackness
Always the corpse bridesmaid, never the corpse bride – it's criminal just how underrated Brazil's Krisiun are, especially for a band now celebrating their second decade of existence. And what better way to celebrate than with a 13 track 'fuck you' to the casual metalhead, or the type of Bring Me The Horizon fan who says they love Death but doesn't know who Kam Lee is, by releasing a collection of rare, hard to find and out of print EPs. Its dense, impenetrably cacophonous and ear-gouging racket is likely to bring a tear of joy to the blackened eye of the true death head. Yes, by the very nature of this being some of the group's earliest material, the muddiest moments of production provide somewhat of a barrier to total immersive enjoyment, and there are more than a few moments that sound like Altars Of Madness played backwards in a tunnel, but if the fret-wanking, banshee-like wail of solos don't get the sulphur in your blood coursing, then you probably shouldn't be reading this column.
Von - Satanic Blood
Did anyone else catch that Vice/Noisey produced, three part black metal documentary OMM: One Man Metal recently – the one that focused on the, funnily enough, one man BM projects Leviathan (Jef Whitehead), Striborg (Sin Nanna – which is probably also not his real name) and Xasthur (Scott Connor)? Anyone else think their 'none-more-kvlt' approach of shooting in black and white, and their projection of these undoubtedly deep and interesting individuals as sad caricatures, turned what could have been a great piece of music journalism into cheesy 'isn't it cool to be emotionally damaged' pap?
At a time when the ideas of 'kvlt' in black metal are slowly becoming further and further reduced to stylistic choices it's fucking fantastic to see one of the most influential but ignored American black metal bands finally release a 'proper' album after 20 years of waiting. OK, so it may be re-recordings of early day's demos, EPs etc, but as a raw, searing document of bleak but classic black metal from a band so significant they literally gave Watain their name, it deserves to be instrumental in bringing them to a wider audience. And by covering all grounds from mid-tempo dirges like 'Chalice Of Blood' to caustic walls of calcifying static like 'Release', they've got the tools to do it.
De Magia Veterum - The Deification
With its epic cover art, featuring a fleet of trumpet-playing angels and crepuscular rays emanating from an upside down Jesus figure, the last De Magia Veterum album by Gnaw Their Tongues' pilot Mories could almost, at a glance, have been mistaken for some sort of post-rock nonsense that'd make you think of autumn and girls you like that don't only exist on the internet, rather than the unrelenting, shrill and disorientating pig-fucking horror that it actually is. You'd be unlikely to make the same mistake with The Deification however, given that its prickly, indecipherable and abstract cover art hints far more accurately at the loosely black metal/atmospheric funeral dirge that is contained within. You want 'real' expressive, forward thinking and experimental 'one man music' that's not been unnecessarily reduced to a sad parody – not through any fault of its own – by a lazy editorial agenda? Then look no further.
Right, I've rambled on long enough – we've all got more important things to do – but coming next month: Deftones, Dragged Into Sunlight, and the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to...
Horns up, ya shitters!