Horns Up Ya Shitters! A Columnus Metallicus For May
, May 31st, 2013 06:15
Toby Cook dissects this month's metal releases and ponders which go best with a weed-free lifestyle
Roadburn. Desertfest. Loop reformed. Gave up smoking. Exhumed and their chainsaw wielding mascot laid waste to the upstairs of the Islington Garage. Ate the best spare ribs anywhere on earth in an art nouveau time-warp in Ghent. Was both purged and punished by Godflesh at Roadburn – and floored when they dived into Loop's 'Straight To Your Heart'. Bongripper at Desertfest. Thought about death whilst in the shower. Excessive immersion in Gnod's Chaudelande. Lost my copy of Moby Dick on a train. Bled THC from my eyes thanks to Electric Wizard at Roadburn. Was physically sick, largely thanks to Bong at Desertfest. Started smoking again. Saw a Ladbrokes advert at a bus stop that, in suggesting that it'd be more enjoyable to gamble than to take a summer holiday (no, seriously!) might actually be worse than that McDonald's one. Listened to Bongripper. Apologised to the friend I was intending to lend Moby Dick to for losing it on a train. Continued to find it hilarious that Endless Boogie finished their set 10 minutes early at Roadburn… get it? 'Cause their name's 'Endless', yeah. Moss at the Underworld. Had that dream where all of your teeth fall out. Rediscovered my love for Led Zeppelin I. Became dangerously obsessed with Bongripper. Discovered Olivier Messiaen's Quartet For The End Of Time. Did I mention Roadburn yet? Wondered why it took me until now to hear Ruins Of Beverast's 'I Raised This Stone As A Ghostly Memorial'. Struggled with the fact that I can't deny that Burzum's Filosofem is a great record. Threw more unnecessary references to Billy Joel into pieces of work and casual conversation.
It's fair to say that a lot has happened since the last time Columnus Metallicus lumbered its way onto the pages of The Quietus, but none of it matters in the slightest, because (like you hadn't noticed) Slayer's Jeff Hanneman died, and for the world of metal – and much more importantly, his family – that is a terrible, untimely loss. And I still can't quite believe it to be honest.
Hey Colossus – Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo (MIE Music)
"If they'd stop fucking around they could easily be the most vital noise rock outfit in the country; seriously, they could be headlining a festival like this. No doubt they'd tell me to fuck off were I to put it to them that if they'd just put down the bong… they could achieve a greater deal of relative success, and in fairness they probably should – why should I stifle their creativity by insisting they do something as mundane as to take it a bit more seriously?" (Supersonic, Birmingham, 2012)
They only went and did it, didn't they; serious or not, whether they put down the bong or just packed it full of PCP I don't know, what I do know is that in spite of its ludicrous name Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo is fucking brilliant. From the agitated, narcotic groove of opener 'Hot Grave' to the driving, almost Gnod-ish monotony of 'How To Tell Time With Jesus' and the krautrock-ish relentlessness and gazing, fuzz heavy Loop like textures of 'English Flesh', this feels like The album we've all been waiting for Hey Colossus to make – laced with lysergic and scattering noise and synth hum, despite the sense of unease it's an utterly captivating 45 minutes. It's the reason too that, since none of you are wondering, it beats some of the 'bigger' albums to the top of the pile this month. And it's why I continue to wonder why it is that, with the likes of Hey Colossus, Gnod and Dethscalator, noise rock continues to be sort of a dirty word. UK noise rock is producing some of the most uncompromising, fearless and unique heavy music around at the moment, and it's fucking criminal that more people aren't shouting about it. Especially when LP's like Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo are the results.
Cathedral – The Last Spire (Rise Above)
Undoubtedly, were it not for Cathedral the metal landscape would look and sound very different indeed. And yet, I have to confess something: With the double disc prog-gasm that was previous LP The Guessing Game and the globe-trotting and comfortably testudineous winding down of operations – that as well as cementing their legend and reminding us all why Cathedral were so important in the first place perhaps added an unrealistic pressure and expectation – I was as sceptical as I'd dare be that The Last Spire would turn out to be any good. And then they went and made a doom album, an out and out, claw clinching, horn raising doom album, and arguably their strongest record in over a decade. It almost feels like a follow on to those fearless early albums, like they somehow skewed the time line on to an alternate tangent where The Last Spire followed The Carnival Bizarre, and in which Biff is corrupt, powerful and married to your mother… Only Cathedral could get away with the sombre yet maybe fitting groans of "bring out your dead" that lead 'Entrance to Hell' into the Pentagram-ian stomp of 'Pallbearer', or the sort of frenzied and symphonic keyboard work mid-way through 'An Observation' that seems to be on loan from the Rick Wakeman collection, and make it work equally as well as the Sabbath worship of 'Cathedral Of The Dammed' or the dirge and chamber doom of closer 'This Body, Thy Tomb'. There might not be another 'Hopkins…' here, but there could hardly be a better way out. Cheers Cathedral. (By the way, now that they've split up does that mean we're allowed to talk sensibly about Lee Dorrian's vocals?)
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – Mind Control (Rise Above)
If Cathedral have a legacy beyond merely their recorded output then that legacy is surely the very fact that bands like Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats actually exist, and on the strength of Mind Control, the much anticipated follow-up to the now near mythically venerated Blood Lust, the future of British Doom is in very capable hands indeed. Beyond the mystique and the intrigue born of their initial reluctance to engage with the media and their almost total lack of self promotion, Uncle Acid pull off a particularly genius trick: With their warm yet sparse and, urgh, 'vintage' tone (yeah, I know, I actually feel a bit sick for saying it) and melodies that sound like a deranged take on those of the 1960's mop-haired pop brigade, there's an undeniable accessibility to Mind Control. Except that there isn't, really, it's merely a veneer of accessibility that masks something deeply sinister. As if basing the records concept around the acid fuelled motorcycle expedition of a Charles Manson like cult figure wasn't unsettling enough, somehow the sonic journey through prickly psych/doom via an oddly melodic, Shankar-inspired done meander and back again make Mind Control a sort of Sgt. Pepper's… for people whose life has become one long and protracted paranoid episode.
Ghost B.C. – Infestissumam (Loma Vista Recordings)
Even more fanatically committed to their conceptual shtick and anonymity than Uncle Acid, I can't be the only one who finds it funny that despite Ghost projecting that whole 'none more evil' vibe – the dark yet kind of comic book Satanism; costumes, that monastic aura and all that – there is something deeply sinister about Uncle Acid, where as in truth Ghost feel about as sinister as Steel Panther. But then again, that's the point isn't it – it's all part of the theatre of the whole Ghost deal. And regardless they make some great yet surprisingly polarising music – not that Infestissumam is a daring or badly executed deviation from the path of powerful melody and Hammer Horror psych rock set out over Opus Eponymous, more a refinement of it, but I'm starting to meet more and more people who passionately dislike Ghost. Really though, if anything it's just another marker of the level of their rapidly attained status that people are more than ready to tar them as gimmicky rip-off bastards. For those people, Infestissumam is only going to make things worse – it's that weird feeling that it's all a bit 'Tony Iommi as the Phantom Of The Opera' as you move from the driving riffs of 'Infestissumam Per Aspera Part II' to the organ waltz of 'Secular Haze' and beyond into pop hook hell. Or Heaven, whichever's worse.
Melvins – Everybody Loves Sausages (Ipecac)
So it's the Melvins covering Venom (with help from Scott Kelly), David Bowie's 'Station to Station', The Kinks, The Jam, 'Black Betty', Roxy Music, and, somehow, Throbbing Gristle too – what's not to like? Well, the fact that in covering 'Best Friend' they've managed to pick my absolute least favourite Queen song ever, which is an achievement in itself, but that's pretty much it. Oh, I'm sorry, were you expecting something different from the Melvins? Do you not know who they are or something? What's the matter with you? As you might expect from a band who have had few missteps in a near 30 year career there is something uniquely 'Melvins' about Everybody Loves Sausages; from a song selection that moves from the obvious to the obscure to the fact that you don't just get one side of the band, but multiple – shifting as they do through the percussive barrage of 'Warhead' and the odd-groove blues of 'Female Trouble' all the way to Jello Biafra doing his best Vincent Price impression throughout 'In Every Dream Home A Heartache' (which is undoubtedly the best Roxy Music cover I've ever heard)… I still don't get how they managed to cover Throbbing Gristle though; my world doesn't make sense anymore.
Moss – Moss's Horrible Night (Rise Above)
Horrible night? I'll tell you about a horrible night; a horrible night is one you wake up from on the floor, having not quite made it all the way to your bed, and enveloped in the unique aroma of your own piss. Moving at only a marginally faster pace than their namesake, Moss are still pretty fucking bleak, even if they have decided to start writing proper songs – songs with twisted, viscous melodies as well as soul crushing drone and bad-trip doom like highlight (lowlight, whatever) 'Dark Lady'. Moss have always been about the precise rhythmic conversation between drums and guitar, but Horrible Night's as much about Olly Pearson's 'Ozzy in '71' vocal approach that languidly binds it all together. It is not, however, a very good album to listen to if you're trying to give up smoking weed.
Lazarus Blackstar/Headless Kross – Split (Head Of Crom Records)
If you've been waiting for this month's Necessary Crust Inclusions, then here's the first. Or at least half of it is anyway: the Lazarus Blackstar side. And yes, crust-doom is still crust, especially when it's as strung out and fucking feral as the likes of 'Flesh For The Coffin', which with its lethargic and lumpen sonic mass makes it pretty much the doom-crust equivalent of necking cider loaded with barbiturates. Over on the other side, Glasgow's Headless Kross have taken the easy route (ha!) and decided to record a 'reworking' of Amon Duul II's 'Deutsch Nepal', tiled 'The Silver Hand Parts 1 & 2' – what's amazing is just how fucking well it's turned out; just when it's starting to sounds like a Discharge record stuck in one groove and at far too slow a speed, a vortex opens up causes it all to mutate into a dirty, psychedelic space rock/krautrock, head-fuck. What's even better is that it's another triumph for a small label who have already brought you killer records by the likes of Conan and Slabdragger.
Light Bearer – Silver Tongue (Halo Of Flies)
It's a pretty bold statement to simply put 'God Destroyer' in the About section of your band's Facebook page, but it at least tells you not to expect cascades of positivity and colourful imagery about cyber-cowboys or something from Light Bearer – rather it tells you that the Londoners are the sort of light bearers who are likely to lead themselves, and you, off the edge of a cliff. In a Storm. Try to imagine the results of Amenra and Godspeed You! Black Emperor collaborating to interpret Times Of Grace era Neurosis – that's pretty much where you're at with Light Bearer; it's that unholy coming together of frustrated, anguished melancholy and subtle, gently unnerving cinematic scope than makes the likes of 'Beautiful Is The Burden' or the horrifying pastoral drone of 'Clarus' so punishing. And there's something about '…the metaphorical casting out of the protagonist Lucifer…' in there too, as if it wasn't heavy enough.
Nails – Abandon All Life (Southern Lord)
That Abandon All Life, at just over 17 minutes, is not even as long as the first track on Silver Tongue probably tells you all you need to know about them too; fuck that Joey Ramone thing about "we write really long songs; we just play them really fast" shit, Nails write really short songs and play them at a suicidal pace and intensity. That it simply says 'hatred ad infinitum' on the back cover of Abandon All Life probably ought to tell you something too (it also says 'produced by Kurt Ballou' as well, but of course it does, because apparently he's producing everything awesome at the moment and continuing to make it all sound impossibly more brutal than everything else). I mean look, its 17 minutes of impenetrable and sulphuric crust/grind that still manages to swerve enough times into bleak groove to keep you miserable – what the fuck else do you want? You want blood? (Actually, there's probably even some of that too in the comparatively epic closer 'Suum Cuique').
The Body – Master, We Perish (At A Loss Recordings)
The Body are fucking brutal. In fact nothing else is quite as fucking brutal as the Body. I don't care what type of music you want to talk to me about, if you describe it using the words 'fucking brutal' and you're not talking about The Body, then who or whatever it is that you're talking about is not fucking brutal, it just isn't… No, it isn't, because you're not talking about The Body, and you're not talking about Master, We Perish, which is pretty much the aural equivalent of being strangled by someone as they scream a list of their failures in your face; It's the sort of record that makes you want to say 'fuck it', give up and start burning tires in the street. All unyielding and impenetrable barrages of sludge and intense drone that creates a suffocating atmosphere of utter desperation – the five and a half minutes of 'The Blessed Lay Down And Writhe In Agony' is about as totally abject a five minutes as you're ever likely to experience. Air raid sirens, gun shots… And choral accompaniment? Go on, I dare you.
And that's it, all done for another month. Stumbling chaotically into the next Columnus Metallicus: Shining, Dethscalator… and the, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.
Horns up, ya shitters!