Horns Up Ya Shitters! Best New Metal LPs Reviewed By Toby Cook
, April 9th, 2013 11:18
Toby Cook is back to wail at a McDonald's ad and review new LPs from Darkthrone, Humanfly, Baptists, Pombagira, From The Bogs Of Aughiska, Phil Anselmo & Warbeast, Blood Tsunami, Rotting Christ, Intronaut and Holly Hunt
That's it, it's over. Time to kiss the loved ones goodbye, time to decide who gets my Battlestar Galactica box set and my first edition copy of An Innocent Man, and time to give my battered and scratched beyond buggery vinyl copy of Seven Churches one last spin. Because for all the great metal out there, I'm not sure I want to live any more in a world that has degenerated to a point where McDonald's think it's ok to use divorce, a broken home and one of the most difficult and emotionally effecting episodes any family can ever go through as a marketing tool to sell steroid-injected, sugar-swollen burgers, and no one bats a fucking eyelid.
Not seen the advert? Seriously? The one where a mother informs her teenage son that her boyfriend is moving in? The one that suggests that his understandable emotional confusion can be overcome by an evening trip to a fast-food chain with said boyfriend because "we've all got McDonald's in common"? I mean, Fuck. Me. Have we really sunk so low? Sure, I can live through a near triple-dip recession and a wanton drive to further impoverish and vilify the poor, thanks to sweeping public service and welfare cuts by an increasingly desperate and out of touch government and perpetual negative propaganda in the press. And I can even live in a world where there are, inexplicably, two versions of Queensrӱche (do we really even need one anymore?), but that ad makes me want to sit in a locked garage with the fucking car engine running.
A family is a complex thing, fraught with emotional ups and downs and membership is not always defined by blood alone. And if McDonald's tore away the last shred of hope I had for humanity, then at their recent reformation shows at the Underworld in London, Carcass, of all people, went someway towards restoring it. On those nights Carcass connected with those in attendance in a way few other bands of their stature ever could. Punishingly heavy yet funny, touching (mainly when former drummer Ken Owen, who continues his rehabilitation from a cerebral haemorrhage, came out to say a few words to a wild ovation) and above all unifying… "Free to exist, free to dream", thank fuck for the return of Carcass.
Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance
And thank fuck too for the return of Darkthrone, who after nearly 25 years and fifteen LPs have finally released a metal album. If you can still hear me over the sound of the majority of the metal community becoming castrated as they suddenly and violently get their bullet belts into a twist, I don't mean that to be antagonistic - far from it. I mean it in as far as that, with The Underground Resistance, they have released an album that is metal in the truest, most old school, early Celtic Frost, Merciful Fate, Iron Maiden and Manilla Road loving sense of the word. As with pretty much everything Darkthrone have ever done it's still got that punk-as-fuck attitude bleeding from every nicotine-stained, cider-saturated pore, but blackened crust punk this ain't.
None of that, though, is why this arguably constitutes their best and most intense album since F.O.A.D. If anybody else made an album like this and was so open and obvious about their inspirations, we'd all be sitting here calling them cherry-picking, copy-catist cretins, and herein lies the reason why we're not saying that about Darkthrone: with Fenriz having, through his exceptionally enlightening Band Of The Week blog, attained a status as a sort of mono-genre John Peel, and with the band's fiercely underground, anti-industry attitude, The Underground Resistance is a true metal fan's album made by true metal fans. It's not rip-off or cynical homage, it's love, passion and riffs that make you want to headbang until your retinas detach; it's the epic power metal of 'Valkyrie', it's the 14 minutes of gritty speed metal riffs and King Diamond-esque wails of 'Leave No Cross Unturned', and it fucking slays.
Humanfly – Awesome Science
Hello Alfa Centauri B! Very, very broadly, according to the multiverse theory, everything that could ever possibly exist - and the entirety of space, time, matter and energy required for it do so - does indeed exist and is, on some plane or another, being played out. All of which means that on some plane of existence or another there is a formerly blast-laden hardcore band that has expanded their scope to morph into a melon-twisting, fretboard-blazing, psych-prog/post-metal group: one who have somehow managed to pack the unhinged instrumental odysseys of early Mars Volta, the tidal force and subtle currents of Isis, a stone cold smoking groove, and the sort of virtuosic, foot-on-the-monitor, riff-your-nuts-off power that should be filling stadiums, all into one record.
Luckily for us, that plane is right here, that record is Awesome Science and that band is Leeds' Humanfly. Barely recognisable from their previous release, Darker Later, their artfully oppressive approach to riffs on the likes of 'The Armour Of Science' still remains, whilst the eerie, discordant atmospherics so masterfully conjured on Darker Later's epic, Rose Kemp-featuring closer 'Heavy Black Snow' have now unfurled to envelop the whole of Awesome Science, making this one of the most, ahem, awesomely realised albums from any British band this year… so far.
Baptists – Bushcraft
Whatever you do, don't let your first listen of Bushcraft, be through a half decent pair of headphones. Trust me, it'll fucking ruin you. Beyond the buzzsaw guitars and the vocals that peel your facial flesh back like a bucket of Nitromors, when that kickdrum blasts down your ear canal you can actually feel your brain being punched.
Given that in recent years he's near enough become the metal equivalent of Phil Spector (except, y'know, without the murder and those wigs that look like a hair sculpture of the forest moon of Endor) it's perhaps little surprising to learn that Kurt Ballou's sonic fingerprints are all over this Canadian quartet's Southern Lord debut. But having one of the best producers around doesn't mean shit if you haven't got the chops to back it up, and believe me, Baptists have got more chops than Paul Bunyan. Bushcraft undeniably invites multiple comparisons with Converge – they're rooting around in the same metallic/hardcore/crust forest and capture that same paradoxical air of utter anarchy honed to impenetrable tightness – yet Baptists are no mere wannabes. Amongst the typhoons of feedback there's an ugly yet compelling groove to the likes of 'Still Melt' that more than marks them out from a near-infinite number of Converge copyists.
Pombagira – Maleficia Lamiah
(Black Axis Records)
And speaking of forests...
Pombagira - the most criminally under-appreciated doom/sludge band in the UK - are back, Jim, but not as we know them. The duo's last outing, Iconoclast Dream, was a near unbeatable sprawl of lumbering, grooving, voodoo-inspired dark doom; 40 plus minutes of convulsing black psychedelia and pure volume. Maleficia Lamiah however, while its two tracks span a similar length, is a whole other journey altogether. Permeating both the title track and its companion 'Grave Cardinal' is an earthy, almost primitive atmospheric contagion, channeled through a meandering fuzz of drone and anthemic, psychotropic doom. The overall effect is of some otherworldly mass infinitely emanating from an eternally cursed forest that lies far beyond humanity's reach. And yet it's not all one hazy, listing collection of riffs; somehow intertwined with it all, and propelled by the deceptively precise drum work, are moments of delicate, tranquil and almost 5ive-esque wandering.
From The Bogs Of Aughiska – Roots Of This Earth Within My Blood
If Maleficia Lamiah is a journey then Roots Of This Earth Within My Blood is full on, treacherous voyage into the great unknown. You might know one half of this duo, Conchúir O' Drona, as the man behind the Buckfast-powered, digital insanity of Drugzilla. Yet while Drugzilla operates in a chaotically unhinged realm of noise and pure sonic malice, FTBOA create mostly creeping, endlessly unfurling dark ambient noisescapes; subtle, measured waves of crawling pastoral horror, cloaked in a broadly black metal aura and rooted in the myth and folklore of the pair's native Western Ireland. Although largely built from deeply moving and affecting atmospheric passages that surround the bracing explosion of the title track (one of which that includes some utterly nightmarish vocal strangulations by Gnaw Their Tongues/De Magia Veterum creator Mories) it's 'An Seanchaí', a track built entirely around the engrossing spoken words of near legendary Irish lore-keeper and tale-spinner Eddie Lenihan, that provides the most utterly captivating moments.
Phil Anselmo & Warbeast – War Of The Gargantuas
(Season Of Mist)
Right, enough with all that subtlety, I know what you shitters want, you want some fucking metal – you want something that is more metal that Mechagodzilla shitting galvanised lightning bolts whilst crushing a steel mill with his giant adamantium bollocks. What you want is this split EP from Down vocalist Phil Anselmo and one of the best hypersonic death/thrash bands in operation today, Texas' Warbeast. It marks Anselmo's first properly solo outing (brutally backed here by The Illegals) ahead of a full LP later this year, and his opener 'Conflict (Nerve Meets Bone)' is essentially a head-on collision of late-era Pantera and Superjoint Ritual. What follows are three tracks of absolutely punishing metal one-upmanship, to the point that Warbeast's closer 'It', a grind-paced thrash rampage speared by flaming, face-melting solos, is enough to cause a metallic pressure drop that'll suck the iron out of your blood through your skin and kill you.
Blood Tsunami – For Faen
Finally! A thrash band who have remembered that there'd be no such thing as thrash if Discharge never existed, and that there was a time when Metallica were the best thrash band on the planet. Returning after a near four year hiatus, which mostly involved them making up three-fifths of raw-as-fuck, bar-fight thrashers Mongo Ninja, gone are the clichéd forays into NWOBHM and the Marvel-does-Manowar cover art that characterised their previous releases. In come blasts of stripped-to-the-gristle crust and the sort of indelible riffs that are the reason we all still love Kill 'Em All, not to mention lethal doses of the chaotically shrieking, tremolo arm abusing solos that littered Reign In Blood. While still far from being the most original thrash band on the scene, from the punishing, Antisect-kicking-Celtic-Frost-in-the-face brevity of 'Dogfed' and 'B.T.K' to the likes of 'Krokodil' – a track only marginally less likely to eat a hole in your flesh than the homemade skag substitute currently boring chasms in the veins of Russia's impoverished junkies – Blood Tsunami have crafted one of those rare records where from the first second after the needle drops you know that, dude. This. Fucking. Rules.
Rotting Christ – Kata Ton Diamona Eaytoy
(Season Of Mist)
Every metal fan with a backbone will admit that there are certain bands that, for whatever reason, you just can't get into. It happens, I've known metalheads that don't like Mastodon – I mean, we're not friends anymore, but those people are out there. Just occasionally, though, one of those bands goes and releases a record that makes you wonder "What the fucking hell have I been doing with my fucking life man?" For me, Greece's Rotting Christ are such a band, and Kata Ton Diamona Eaytoy is such a record. The quartet have left behind the rather cold and linear technical relentlessness of some of their other later works, and have harnessed a constantly morphing sort of blackened death, more gargantuan in heaviness than the Colossus of Rhodes, and propelled by the sort of drum battery that would've finished off Xerxes before lunch. Interspersed are moments of haunting monastic chanting, ethereal Middle Eastern augmentations and the sort of engrossing, fearless and inimitable progression that'll make you even more disappointed with the last Enslaved album.
Intronaut – Habitual Levitations (Instilling words With Tones)
"Hey up lads, have you heard of that band, what are they called now…. Meshuggah?"
"Well, like, wouldn't it be cool if we, like, y'know, appropriated summat from them for t' new album; y'know, like the bowel-haemorrhaging guitar tone, or whatever?"
"You mean like djent?"
"No, I mean we do it in a way that's not shite."
And that's exactly what they did, and I fucking love it. Say what you like about Intronaut being isosceles-beard stroking post metal for graphic design students (they're not) their harnessing of bass-led jazz meanders, the constantly conjugating counter rhythms and warm yet eerily narcotic vocal harmonies have always belied the punishing weight and brute force of their lengthy excursions. While still far from the impenetrable, and far more linear, heaviness of their debut, Void, Habitual Levitations has somehow captured its rawness and used it to sand blast the smooth edges off Valley Of Smoke to create something that is at once deadly hypnotic, angular and oppressive (and they get a touch of the Meshuggahs during 'The Welding' especially). But it's also warmly effervescent, anthemic and full of groove, no more so than during the luscious, off-time ebb and flow of 'Harmonomicon'.
Holly Hunt – Year One
(Other Electricities/ Roofless Records)
To add a pointless sense of symmetry, we end this month with another power duo in the shaped of the crushing yet consuming repetitive bludgeon of Holly Hunt – yet where Darkthrone are some 25 years deep into their career, Year One marks guitarist Gavin Perry and former Floor & Cavity drummer Beatriz Monteavaro's debut record. (And yes, that noise is a guitar, even though it sounds like Galactus boring through a planet with a rusty mega-drill). Lumbering yet lithe, repetitive yet revealing, droning and meditative yet propulsive and elegantly psychedelic, at its core Year One is a bruising triumph of how to properly harness dynamics and total volume to create a cannon of riffs and tribal-tub-thumpery that creates the same feel as early OM might, were it channelled through Joe Preston's spleen. Far, far more than the sum of their two parts.
And that, once again, is that for another month. Coming next time: Cathedral, Hey Colossus… And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.
Horns up, ya shitters!