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Columnus Metallicus

A Room Full Of Horns And Nowhere To Sit Down: February Columnus Metallicus
Toby Cook , February 23rd, 2012 09:11

Captain! He rises! Toby Cook puts down the plastic skull bong and picks up his notebook. Horns up shitbirds!

Yes, just when you thought it was safe to go back on The Quietus…

Much like a case of the crabs – in that it's both mildly amusing and supremely irritating - dragging itself over the horizon in a piss-stained Electric Wizard t-shirt and engulfed in acrid fog for the first time this year, Columnus Metallicus is back! So, for both of you that care, here are some things I’ve learnt since last summer:

1) Did you know that towards the end of World War II, in a secret underground bunker in Poland, Nazi scientists built a time machine using technology plundered from a crashed alien space craft!? I didn’t. Thanks cough ‘History’ Channel! (I lack any discernable musical talent, but someone ought to write a song about that bollocks).

2) You can’t win with Machine Head. If you say you like them, someone will call you a knob. If you point out that much of their back catalogue is patchy at best, someone else will call you a “hipster douche”.

3) Scrub as hard as you like, you’ll never wash the stains from your mind.

Black Cobra Invernal (Southern Lord)

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s a bloody odd choice to kick off the column, it came out months ago!... Bit out of touch aren’t you fella?”

True, but Columnus Metallicus is not any sort of democracy, more of a malevolent dictatorship, and like all good (?) dictators I don’t give a witch's tit about what you think. And besides, have you heard Invernal? It’s fucking brilliant!

Stylistically of course there’s little departure from their last Southern Lord released effort Chronomega, yet amongst the barrage of relentlessly dense doom/sludge riffs and disorientating drum-led counter rhythms, guitarist Jason Landrian has managed to expand on the pair's sound exponentially, by adding multiple guitar layers that mostly consist of either Russian Circles-esque finger tapping or straight up fretwanking solos. Plus, what’s not to like about an album that is loosely based around the concept of ‘what would happen if there was a nuclear war in Antarctica?’ and the failed journey of Robert Falcon Scott?

Russian Circles Empros (Sargent House)

Speaking of Russian Circles - upon its release late last year (yes, I know, but we’ve discussed this already) Empros was simultaneously hailed for being their “heaviest album to date” and denounced as being “unnecessarily heavy”. Typically, the truth lies somewhere in between. For example, it’s hard to argue with the former statement when confronted with Brian Cook's stabbing bassline two and a half minutes into ‘Atackla’, moving the track as it does from a serene post rock-ish snooze to bludgeoning, dark paranoia. Elsewhere ‘Sciphol’, with its Boris-esque deployment of the E-bow, builds totally organically to its crushing crescendo. Only perhaps folk-ish closer ‘Praise Be To Man’, a track that feels as if it were written for an unusually dark Wes Anderson movie is spoiled by “unnecessary” bass drones. Empros may never quite match up to its predecessor Geneva, but they still don’t sound like Isis, not even a little bit…. SO STOP SAYING THEY SOUND LIKE ISIS!

Goatwhore Blood For The Master (Metal Blade)

Right, enough dicking about with month old albums and heavy/too heavy debates, let’s have some fucking metal.

Goatwhore: Great fucking name. Great fucking album? Erm, yes. And no. That is to say it’s great in the way that pie and mash is great. It may be little more than some shitty mince in often soggy pastry accompanied by a globular mountain of starch, but it’s satisfying, dependable, tasty and impossible not to like, which pretty much sums up Blood For The Master (except it’s got a shit tonne of blackened death riffs, rather than ground-up arseholes and ears in gravy. And it goes much better with beer). However, this ‘pie & mash’ approach also proves the LPs downfall. Whilst the deceptively groove laden ‘In Deathless Tradition’ or the black metal-hued near crust punk of ‘Beyond The Spell Of Discontent’ are fucking great, for the most part there’s nothing going on the group (or indeed any one of a hundred other groups) haven’t done before.

Libeteer Better To Die On Your Feet Than Live On Your Knees (Relapse)

Definitely doing something that no one, or certainly very few, have done before is the impressively bearded one-man anarcho hate-machine that is Matthew Widener (or Libeteer as he’s known here). Frankly, it’s good to see that Relapse still release music by bands other than those that sound like Baroness or Mastodon and have artwork by John Baizley. For what BTDOYFTLOYK represents is quite simply part impenetrable, Brutal Truth-ish, crusty grind, part uniting anthemic rock passages and part trumpets, mandolins and stirring, brass lead marching band meanders. No, seriously!

Orange Goblin A Eulogy For The Dammed (Candlelight)

Has anyone else noticed that every fucking review of this album starts with “we love Orange Goblin” or “it’s easy to love Orange Goblin” or “I want to by Ben Ward a pint, then kiss him softly on the back of the neck whilst I slip a finger up his arse”. For fuck's sake, if Orange Goblin wanted smoke blown up their backsides I’ve no doubt they'd be at home with a packet of fags and a length of hose. Judge them on their music, please. Not that they aren’t one of the UK’s best and most criminally underappreciated rock bands, but it’s been five years since their last release, so it’s about bloody time this LP came out. Y’know what though? This is probably the best album they’ve ever made - it’s that good. There’ll always be a nostalgic quality to Frequencies From Planet Ten and Time Travelling Blues, but this has it all: riffs, aggression, melody, consistency. Just buy it, and when you see Ben Ward at a show buy him a pint and…

Monarch Omens (At A Loss)

The fact that such a thing as ‘hipster doom’ even exists is pretty troubling to be perfectly honest. More troubling still is that some of it is actually very good. Monarch play droning, hipster doom. Monarch are not as good as Bongripper (few are). That said, Omens is actually far better (and far, far slower) than Bongripper’s most recent EP, the disappointing Sex Tape/Snuff Film. Unfortunately, to appreciate the real sonic force and purging depression of Monarch, you have to go and see them live – if, like me, you are one of those people that resents with ever increasing vitriol virtually every person they meet because they’ve got a proper job, all their own teeth and no debt, you’ll fucking love it.

Corrosion Of Conformity Corrosion Of Conformity (Candlelight)

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I think C.O.C. are better without Pepper Keenan. Before anyone spits their spliff out, this doesn’t mean I particularly dislike any of the band's Keenan-featuring output. In fact, although I fear I’m in the minority, as far as I’m concerned 96’s Wise Blood is the best thing they’ve ever done – but this album just wouldn’t have worked were it crammed full of stoner-y riffs and Keenan’s ‘90’s grunge-pop band’ style vocals. No. Why it works is that not only is it the perfect amalgamation of their earlier punk/thrash sound and their more familiar blues/metal sound, but the rawness of the recording and the imperfect nuances – like being able to her the ‘click’ of Mike Dean’s bass strings against the fret board – make it sound just that bit more, well, real.

Church Of Misery Master Of Brutality/The Second Coming (Reissues) (Rise Above)

If you don’t like Church Of Misery, why not? In fact why am I even talking to you? You’ve failed at metal, go away. Those of you that are left, ironically, probably won’t need much explanation from me as to why these reissues are worth picking up, but just in case… Unashamedly Sabbath-obsessed, dark psychedelic-hued doom jams whose lyrical content is totally concerned with serial killers – seriously, what’s not to like? Fans of doom based more squarely at the hippy-end of the spectrum (Sleep, Spirit Caravan, Om, etc) might find Yoshiaki Negishi’s brutal vocal rasp a little unpalatable, and although the lyrical content makes them one of the few doom bands that should be of particular interest to fans of Cannibal Corpse and the like, there is of course an argument that glorification of serial killers is, like, not cool. But like they put it themselves: “We hate trend. We hate corporate attitude. We hate the word ‘stoner’. Death to false stoners. Let there be doom!!”

Rising To Solemn Ash (Exile On Mainstream)

It’s hard to believe, but there are people out there who didn’t like Mastodon’s The Hunter (it’s true, I’ve met one, he’s called Gary). I don’t get that, it’s like saying you don’t ‘like’ the taste of meat – like, what, all meat? Have you even had ‘all meat’? Thankfully for those weirdos who didn’t like The Hunter and yearned for Mastodon to return to their Remission and Leviathan days, Rising are undoubtedly the band for you. Granted, their Mastodon-ish-ness is mostly in style and spirit rather than technical virtuosity and direct rip off-ery, but with a more than healthy dose of barbarous, sabre flailing, High On Fire style riffing added to the mix, I’d suggest you track down a copy regardless of your opinion of The Hunter. Meat preferences are of course irrelevant.

Black Tusk Set The Dial (Relapse)

I fucking love Black Tusk. In the truest tradition of the Iommi school of guitar playing their approach to song craft is simply riff-to-riff-to-riff-to-riff-to-ri… well, you get the idea. Unsurprisingly their M.O. hasn’t changed since their last LP, Taste The Sin, and neither have the end results - it being Awesome, in the truest sense of the word. Whilst their geographical peers, Mastodon, Kylesa and Baroness, have gradually morphed their sounds into varying forms, Black Tusk continue to produce some of the best sludge-y, crust-y, hard blues rock-y music around. Simple as that.

Right, there we go; ten more albums next month, all of them Meshuggah. Horns up ya shitters!