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Columnus Metallicus

Wheezing & Drinking Tea: A Columnus Metallicus For The New Year
Toby Cook , January 26th, 2011 11:30

No resolutions for our man Toby Cook; instead, he's looking back at the choicest metal that was overlooked at the end of 2010 and reviewing records by Electric Wizard, Pantera and more. Photo by Maria Jefferis of www.shot2bits.net

"The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective."
G.K. Chesterton

Yes, it's that time of year again when nothing much happens. Rather, the majority of people sit around staring at their iPads like mentally challenged Smurfs on ecstasy and make gleeful predictions for the year ahead. The rest of us sit around smoking fags, drinking tea and looking backwards, reflecting on the fact that we have almost certainly done nothing of any merit with the previous year and wonder why, at 25, we're wheezing by the time we reach the top of the stairs.

In the spirit of the latter then, for the first Columnus Metallicus of 2011 we're going to be looking back at some of the releases from the last few months of 2010 that we missed – most likely due to the fact that I was probably too busy smoking fags, drinking tea and wearing out my formally mint condition Haunting The Chapel 12"... and no, that is not a metaphor for chronic masturbation.

"I normally just go round Tom's and watch the Hootenanny... Fuckin' love Jools Holland me!"
Kerry King (possibly)

Electric Wizard Black Masses (Rise Above)

Speaking of poor bronchial health (it's a safe bet that Jus Oborn wheezes if he does anything more strenuous than take a piss) and a general distain for the relentless forward march of time, November saw the doom overlords finally follow up 2007's remarkably polished and accessible Witchcult Today – and to answer your question, no, this is not Dopethrone II. It's actually been the better part of a decade since 'The Wizards' magnum opus, and frankly anyone still expecting them to at some point release a Dopethrone II is clearly smoking too much. Or, er, not enough.

What Black Masses represents is another slight and intelligent side-stepping of the group's now tried-and-tested formula, with the overall feel of the record being that it's the sort of thing that Toni Iommi might have recorded were he the protagonist in a H.P Lovecraft novel, and you were listening to the results whilst being experimented on in an air pump. Yes, the riffs are marginally less intense, more drawn out, sludge-ier and far, far space-ier ('Satyr IX', especially, seems to escape the stereo in heavy swirls akin to the acrid haze of smoke it was surely recorded in) but Black Masses is the sound of Electric Wizard slowly trudging forward the only way they know how. By looking backward. What is it that it says on the back cover of 'that' Big Black LP? "The future belongs to the analogue loyalists. Fuck digital."

Earth A Bureaucratic Desire For Extra-Capsular Extraction (Southern Lord)

Before Earth 2 changed everything – and I do mean everything – and before Dylan Carlson got clean and decided he much preferred making eerie alt. country/folk albums (not that there's a damn thing wrong with that - in fact, Earth's upcoming opus, Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light, looks set to be an early contender for one of the albums of the year – if you like that sort of thing. Which you should), Carlson and several close cohorts – notably a certain Mr. Cobain – found some money down the back of the couch. Rather than spend it on more skag and prescription medication, they bought some studio time and recorded what is only now seeing the light of day in its entirety: the first Earth album.

Pretty much ground zero for the entire doom/drone genre, A Bureaucratic Desire... actually feels more like the Earth of post ... 2. The opening two parts sound exactly like what you'd expect from three dudes locked away in a dank studio, bollocks-ed on Percodan – and probably some smack – trying to make something that sounds vaguely like Sabbath, but slowed to the pace of the asthenosphere. Elsewhere the short and suitably titled 'Divine and Bright', whilst dense and very raw, sees Cobain's hollow and cavernous vocals, perfectly detached, drifting over the cacophony below. Quite haunting.

Pantera Cowboys From Hell (Reissue) (Rhino/Warner)

In yet another fine example of the penchant major labels have for pointless reissues, in September Pantera's 'official' debut (if you discount the three or four previous LP's of glam-metal they released whilst dressed like Dee Snider's pubic wig), Cowboys From Hell, got the several-extra-CD's-of-the-same-songs-but-in-a-slightly-differnt-order-and-recorded-at-different-locations-delux-repackage treatment. But ignore all that and focus on the fact that this is Pantera at their best, before they became painfully boring and inspired wave after wave of 'thug' metal bands who thought the best way to a killer riff was to bash their tattooed bell-ends against the fret board. Oh, and for hearing the last time Phil Anselmo hits those falsettos during 'Heresy'... Although, again, if you're reading this you should probably already own a copy.

Intronaut Valley Of Smoke (Century Media)

Every year it happens; every year there is at least one album that falls so far under the radar it's harder to locate than Gene Simmons' dignity, yet it invariably turns out to be one of the year's best. This time around that rather ignominious award goes to L.A's Intronaut. Imagine Baroness, if they were a jazz band, employing excessive use of the blast beat and making sparing use of an upright bass. Honestly, Valley Of Smoke pretty much has it all: Claw-inducing heaviness, inspired riffs, soaring vocal harmonies and enough fucked up time signatures that you may well end up on the carpet convulsing as if undergoing a religious experience. You'll love it though.

Torche Songs For Singles (Hydra Head)

First of all I just want to make one thing clear: I think Torche are, like, totally awesome. However, this is a bit shit, to say the least. Granted SFS is essentially a stop-gap release designed merely to wet our appetites in anticipation of their next full length, but they surly could have done better. It's not all terrible, obviously – opener 'UFO' nicely straddles the ground between the more relentless and monotonous Torche of old, and the more fluid and accessible Torche of Meanderthal, as does 'Face The Wall', but too many of the 8 tracks here come and go before you've had time to properly tune your air-guitar. Do yourself a favour and get hold of '09's split with Boris, Chapter Ahead Being Fake, instead.

Quest For Fire Lights From Paradise (Tee Pee Records)

For every Electric Wizard LP that can only be enhanced by the inhalation of retina-clogging super-skunk from a lung made of an old Coke bottle and the stomach lining of a badger, there's albums like Quest For Fire's Lights From Paradise, that requires merely some sun, a large green space and a joint resembling a traffic cone. Except, y'know, bigger – and not orange. Slightly shocking from a group featuring former members of the Canadian crust band Cursed, but Lights... is little more than drawn out, subtlety crust imbued '70's psych-prog that turns minutes into hours, in the best way; the sort of sounds that people who weren't alive in the late 60s, and have never been to San Francisco, imagine were coming out of the at city at that time.

Sodom War And Pieces (Steamhammer/SPV)

There are a lot of mottos to live your life by: 'Do unto other as you would have others do unto you', 'A clever person solves a problem, a wise person avoids it', 'If Billy Joel can do it, why can't I?', etc, etc. Sometimes though, you've just got to say 'Fuck it. Let's stick some German death/thrash on!', and in those instances you can hardly do better than Sodom – although admittedly your choices are rather limited. War and Pieces, the trios 13th full length, pretty much sounds like every other LP they've released in the last 20 odd years; that is too say, it's fast, brutal and Tom Angelripper's vocals are still so harsh that you expect to see his tonsils flop out of your speaker cones by about the second track.

Nails Unsilent Death (Southern Lord)

Being as this entire album lasts barely 13 minutes, the obscene levels of crust-heavy grindcore-power-violence will probably be over by the time you finish reading this sentence. So, in the spirit of things I'll aim to keep it brief. If you've ever been pushed down the stairs, repeatedly, whilst on fire, and enjoyed it, this is the LP for you. There, how long was that?

Solace AD (Small Stone)

Frankly, it really winds me up when people dismiss bands like Solace. Granted, that they have been going for nearly 15 years now and yet are still largely unknown on these shores probably hints that something is missing, and there is little doubt that a whole host of their influences are poorly disguised. Yes, they borrow heavily from Sabbath, but who doesn't? Yes, the opening tracks here sound suspiciously Mastodon like, as do Jason's vocals - but it's not like Mastodon aren't awesome, is it? And ok, so they do at times sound like a metal band covering Kyuss, but tell me that doesn't sound fucking great too! Just enjoy it for what it is: Full-on, stoner metal that is far easier to like than dismiss. So don't.

Wino Adrift (Exile On Mainstream)

If Metallica have taught us anything it's that when you start involving things like orchestras and that most un-metal of instruments, the acoustic guitar, contrary to appearances, you're probably running out of ideas and/or having some sort of break down. September, though, saw the legend that is Scott 'Wino' Weinrich take a turn for the acoustic on an album that is at once confessional, cathartic and out-and-out, 'Bulleit Bourbon' and pool-house escapism, and rammed full of ideas that only someone in their 50s could make having lived the rock life for about 48 of them. I mean, name me someone else that could pen a song like 'Green Speed', that is both highly politically charged and about crystal meth?