Horns Up Ya Shitters! February's Best Metal Reviewed
, February 27th, 2013 09:07
He's never early, he's always late, we're just waiting for Toby Cook's Columnus Metallicus...
It's a very particular, pivotal moment in your life when you start phoning up your local council to report potholes and faulty manhole covers, once it's done there's no turning back and you'll have forever joined the fraternity of the suburban dammed, the curtain-twitching cunts with better looking geraniums than record collections. But then, I genuinely thought that I was on the verge of a mental breakdown. One broken manhole cover, one endless stream of London traffic and one constant noise; CLANG CLANG. Every minute of every day and night for four months; CLANG CLANG. Every car, every bus; CLANG CLANG. Like some sort of wrought iron shot gun; CLANG CLANG, CLANG CLANG. I couldn't sleep at night; I couldn't concentrate on my work during the day; I stopped eating properly and briefly started getting drunk in the evenings just to try and get a decent night's sleep; I started getting chest pains during rush hour and pacing about the flat trying to work out ways to ignore it, yet somehow only concentrated on it more and more. It became my obsession; I must've phoned the council and Thames Water once a week, every week, to plead with them to fix it. I wanted to scream fire into the faces of all my neighbours for their gutless ambivalence and I even briefly, yet seriously considered just sitting down, Buddhist monk style in the middle of the road, on top of the offending manhole, realising it would be the only way to stop people driving over it. Mercifully however, when I returned to London in the New Year after spending Christmas with family in Norwich, I discovered that the council had, rather than fixing it, simply tarmaced over it.
We want to believe that the New Year is a new start, a clean slate; it's like January 1st is some sort of vigorous, intangible cosmic swipe of the arm that magically cleans away all the agony and shit of the previous year and evaporates all your problems. But it doesn't, and by the time you reach February you realise that all your shitty problems and irresolvable worries about the vagaries of existence are really still there, you've just tarmaced over them.
So, in that spirit, welcome to the belated first Columnus Metallicus of 2013, still tarmacing over all your problems with unhealthy doses of heavy fucking metal.
The Blood Of Heroes - The Waking Nightmare
For many of us, music is one of the few things that makes life more bearable, and however little hope and optimism you hold for the year ahead, there can be few better starts than being turned on to records like The Waking Nightmare. If the artists involved in The Blood Of Heroes (Justin Broadrick, Balázs Pandi, Dr. Israel, Submerged, Enduser, Tony Maimone, M. Gregor Filip, Joel Hamilton and a guest appearance from At The Gates' Thomas Lindberg) alone aren't enough to make you blow a black, fusion-ridden load over this record, then perhaps if I say it's the equivalent of playing Godflesh, The Bug and Venetian Snares records, all at the same time, that might be the push you need.
Still no? Well get bent then, because this record is pretty much guaranteed a spot on my end of year list already. Merging the oppressive, percussive groove of Broadrick's guitar work, twitching, scattering breakbeats and jarring drum & bass, dark London Zoo-esque dub and the politically and socially conscious lyrical flow of Dr. Israel - not to mention glitch-y near-ambient moments, as well as occasional melodic forays such as 'The Last Forest' - might seem like a recipe for an indulgent mess, yet such are the talents of its creators that The Waking Nightmare is compelling in a way you've never heard before. Unless you've heard their previous, self-titled record of course.
Despite taking their name from the post-apocalyptic Rutger Hauer movie, it's really the dark sonic blood of the city that flows through The Waking Nightmare. It's headphone music for all those bleak night bus journeys you'd rather not have taken, when you're just trying to get home after finishing work and that burning, acidic wave of pity, contempt and blind rage washes over you when confronted by gurning, puking, pissing, feckless morons draped over every seat. It's that feeling of bitter melancholy when you gaze out of the window at the dirty city, hued with the cancerous orange glow of the streetlights, and you can't help but feel that it's perversely beautiful.
Cult Of Luna - Vertikal
I fucking love Blade Runner, that opening establishing shot where you fly over a dark, neon lit, flame belching Los Angeles is one of the greatest in cinema history, but what makes it is the utterly brilliant synth-led score composed by Vangelis. So brilliant is it, in fact, that it's all I can think about every time I hear the eerily similar opener, 'The One', from the first Cult Of Luna LP in five years - despite the fact that the record is actually conceptually based on Fritz Lang's 1927 expressionist/Sci-Fi masterpiece Metropolis. Of course, being Cult Of Luna, Vertikal doesn't take it's inspirations from the narrative of Metropolis, rather it takes its cues from the imagery and the 'feel' of the film. That's probably a good thing because, as history has shown, the story of Metropolis is a bit lightweight – and as perfect as the marriage is that exists between drug-sewer noise rock and Predator 2, Vertikal proves that there can be no better band to tackle such a task as the Swedish seven-piece. All the dark melancholy that the group perfected on The Eternal Kingdom is still there but there's stark coldness at the heart of Vertikal that perfectly encapsulates the hard, almost constructivist vision of Lang's cityscape. Nowhere is that more apparent than during the 19 minute epic 'Vicarious Redemption' with its relentlessly pounding, metronomic central riff, which although cold and mechanical also feels depressingly human.
Tomahawk - Oddfellows
It's a rare thing indeed, but for once I'd have to agree with the consensus view that Tomahawk's last outing, 2007's Anonymous - an album famously based around Native American compositions researched by guitarist Duane Denison - was largely better in idea than in execution. So do I also agree that Oddfellows, as many others appear to be saying, is the album we've been waiting for Faith No More to make for the last 16 odd years? No, of course I fucking don't, the only people that are saying that are those who are only pretending that they've heard a Tomahawk LP before, think Album Of The Year is a great record, and don't really know who The Jesus Lizard are. While there are undoubtedly moments throughout Oddfellows that have a faint whiff of Faith no More to them, they're mostly down to Patton's vocal delivery and rarely last more than a bar or two – there's the briefest glimpse during 'White Hats/Black Hats', and 'South Paw' undeniably has a restrained FNM vibe to it – but if anything the record sounds more like a congealing of most of Patton's more notable musical ventures, served with Denison's shit-kicking guitar work and backed by a Zeppelin-steady, Trevor Dunn and John Stanier featuring rhythm section. What it is, is a fucking great rock LP, leave it at that – if you want to listen to Faith No More, go home and fucking listen to Faith No More!
Kongh - Sole Creation
The same people that will happily (or ignorantly, perhaps) give up the last tattered vestiges of their credibility by saying that the new Tomahawk record sounds like Faith No More are probably the same witless bumbaclarts who go around saying things like "Kongh were obviously stoned off their tits when recording Sole Creation" and "Whoa, can you imagine how baked these dudes were when they went in to record this shit!?" So speaks the voice of someone who, having spent an afternoon sucking on a skull bong, has never tried to do anything even remotely more creative than make beans on toast and get worried about the Illuminati and the prospect of becoming a slave of the Rothschild's - you simply can't make something as cohesive and musically expansive as Sole Creation if your eyes are bleeding THC. Given that Kongh play a brand of stoner doom, it's fair enough to say that they're undoubtedly influenced by the foggy, introspective malaise brought on by ingestion of the devil's weed. However, they seamlessly veer between thumping doom grooves, droning, Yob-like tantric meanders and dark, creeping Neurosis-esque twitches. Elsewhere there is pounding tribal punishment, while they have also expanded their horizons to include clean sung, Torche like melodies alongside the death metal growls. It's actually pretty insulting to label them mere stoners, and ignores the artistry and craftsmanship behind tracks like the alternately brutal and majestic closer 'Skymning'.
Year Of The Goat - Angels' Necropolis
1991 was not only the Chinese year of the goat, but specifically the metal goat, and although technically that has something do with certain elemental characteristics particular to the various character traits of those born in that year, I can't help but picture some dead-eyed, cud-chewing bovid draped in a crusty denim jacket adorned with Saxon patches; tough on the outside, fragile and contemplative on the inside, apparently, and most definitely about to fall in love with Swedish sextet Year Of The Goat (that last bit might not be categorically stated in the Zodiac definition to be honest). And not merely because of the goat thing either, but mostly because of the epic, 'Hello Cleveland' style of NWOBHM purveyed by these faintly occultist, serpent obsessed, and unashamedly retro bastards. Or perhaps I should say 'vintage' bastards, because calling anything 'retro' is usually an instant turn-off, and whilst sitting somewhere between Blue Oyster Cult and an eerily psychedelic King Diamond, and containing the sort of lead guitar journeys that force you spend 20 minutes air guitaring, there's a curiously personal sounding moroseness to tracks like 'Voice Of A Dragon' that make this utterly compelling.
Acrimonious - Sunyata
I recently had an unusually and wholly unexpected piece of work come my way, where I was asked if I would write a short 'novice's guide' to black metal for the Norwegian Airlines in-flight magazine. It got me thinking about how much black metal has become a victim of its original stylistic conventions, and how over the years certain parts of the visual aesthetic have been co-opted by fashion cunts who more than likely don't even care who Thomas Forsberg is. It also got me thinking about how brilliantly the tide has been changing in the few years – it made me think of stadium black metal bands like Watain; expansive, epic black metallers like Wolves In The Throne Room; and how bands like Greece's Acrimonious are making thunderous, driving black metal that contains enough blast beats to reanimate a corpse and enough frenetic, static-filled guitar abuse to shatter your mental hegemony, yet is imbued with crushing modern production values whilst thematically taking a dark twist on Hindu philosophy. It also shows that you can do all that and still open your LP with cavernous, om-like drones that journey into the deepest, darkest parts of the self.
Vomitor - The Escalation
Vomitor: Brutal, shit-kicking, beer-drenched death thrash? Yes. Gnarly as fuck riffs ripped straight from Satan's arsehole and hammered into your ear canal with all the power, grace and precision of a blind gorilla operated pneumatic drill? Yes. Australian? Most definitely. Nazis..?! This is why I fucking hate the internet. This is why there should be a 'you must be at least this intelligent to use the comments section' rule. For seemingly no reason whatsoever, rumours have arisen that this cult Ozzie trio are neo-Nazis, despite the band's firm proclamation to the contrary. It's bollocks of course, utter, utter bollocks, so pay no attention to it. Rather, pay attention to the fact that The Escalation is like a down-tuned, dirty Slayer playing Sodom covers whilst a bit pissed. And there's a track titled 'Metal Or Die', which sounds like a good enough philosophy to me.
Wartorn - Iconic Nightmare
Southern Lord's near-fanatical quest to release at least one record by every crust band on the face of the planet is showing no signs of abating any time soon, and remarkably there so far seems to be absolutely no decline in the quality either – so now add to that list Wisconsin's Wartorn. That the quartet's previous releases have been titled things like Adolf Bushler, War Bastard (best album title ever? Fuck yeah!) probably tells you all you need to know about their political beliefs, yet amongst the typically relentless barrage of d-beats and frenzied, bludgeoning rage of guitars that easily stack up against scene legends Aus Rotten, Skitsystem, Disfear and fellow Southern Lord-ers Wolfbrigade, in tracks like 'Iconic Nightmare' there's the sort of thumping hardcore stomp that out-and-out demands the sort of constant headbanging that'll cause you to end up lumbering about afterwards like Jack Nicholson at the end off One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, except smelling of cheap cider and fags.
Krömosom - Live Forever
You know you're having a shit time at a house party when you twice accidentally swig from that one can that every other fucker has been using as an ashtray for the last three and a half hours; Columnus Metallicus is that shit party, crust is that dog-end and tar filled beer can, and Krömosom are definitely the second time you swig from it. And accidently swallow. And then storm out, grinning nonetheless because no one noticed that you took a shit in the airing cupboard. Erupting from the ashes of savage Australian anarcho-mob Pisschrist and firmly nailed to the punk end of the crust spectrum, Live Forever - a collection of various EPs, splits, 7"s and other rarities - actually marks the first time any of their material has been made available on CD. But don't be fooled into thinking they've gone all professional and polished – so dense and drenched in the piercing buzz of static and chaos is this that it might just be the best, worst-produced thing you've ever heard, which is exactly how it should be.
Hell Bastard - Sons Of Bitches
Ah, Hellbastard. Ultimately, there is little I can say about theses genuine UK legends that hasn't already been said. Through their ever-shifting crust/thrash dynamic, they have not only influenced more crust and thrash bands than you could possibly name, but when the likes of the late great John Peel are quoted as saying things like "I now tell the children that if they won't brush their teeth, I shall invite Hellbastard 'round for tea", there's very little I can add that wouldn't be utterly reductive. A six-track, vinyl-only release, Sons Of Bitches not only sees the band at their thrashiest in years, as well as updating the classic 'We Had Evidence', with 'Throw The Petrol Bomb', it also sees them turn their hands masterfully to what you might call 'anarchist reggae' (no, seriously). And I'll say this, if Metallica pulled their head out of their arses and made music like this after a similarly lengthy career I wouldn't continue to be so fucking bored by them.
Right, now that I've got all that out of my system, that's it for another month. Coming next time: Darkthrone, Darkthrone, Darkthrone… and fuckin' voodoo magic man.
Horns up, ya shitters!