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Columnus Metallicus

Horns Up Ya Shitters! The Best Metal Of March Reviewed
Toby Cook , April 3rd, 2012 10:10

Toby Cook once more utters his Columnus Metallicus AIIIEEEEEE as he reviews new albums from Meshuggah, Black Breath, Napalm Death, Cannibal Corpse, Angel Witch, Christian Mistress, Soulfly, MAKE, Drudkh and Mike Armine

Exactly: You wait six months for one and then two come along to spoil your day in as many months… Nonetheless here are some more pointless things I've learned in the last month:

1) If proof were ever needed of metal's (and music in general) ability to transcend boundaries of geography, race and good sense I give you Orisha Shakpana, Jamaica's best (and only) black metal band. Creating the sort of blood calcifying dirge that most closely resembles early Darkthrone, but with a drum machine; yes, if you're the sort of person that thinks Mayhem's Deathcrush is over produced, this shit's for you. So stick that up your arse Varg Vikernes, you racist bastard.

2) It's always good when during an episode of The X-Files you notice that one of the ancillary characters has a bit of Godflesh on his car stereo. Season five, episode nine: 'Schizogeny'. Ok, so it might be the one of the worst episodes ever but c'mon, it's Godflesh!

3) No, I don't care if Marilyn Manson has a new album coming out – go away.

Meshuggah Koloss
(Nuclear Blast)

Speaking of Godflesh... Much like you can't really blame them for nu-metal, since the release of Meshuggah's last LP, the stunning partial return to their thrashier beginnings that was obZen, a funny thing happened: Some bunch of shitheads with tidy hair decided to take one aspect of Meshuggah's guitar technique and invent 'djent metal' – a pointless sub-genre that ostensibly sounds like a member of a forgotten boy band has gotten lost and ended up whining about his lack of a girlfriend over someone playing one Meshuggah riff over and over until you've rectally prolapsed. Whether Koloss is intended as a reaction to all this only the band will know, but beings as its possibly the heaviest thing they've done since Chaosphere and the most groove laden obelisk of riffs they've ever done, like it or not, it is. How you can write a song in 17/16 time and still have enough groove to make the listener nod like a mental patient on the bus I don't know, but I dare you to check out penultimate track 'Demiurge' and not totally lose your shit.

Black Breath Sentenced To Life
(Southern Lord)

Do you know what? There just aren't enough bands like Black Breath. There aren't enough bands that make albums that are so full of crusty-as-fuck riffage that its sole purpose seems to be to make you want to crack open a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and headbang like a hillbilly in seizures from necking poisoned moonshine – and this is supposed to be their 'difficult second album'! Despite becoming noticeably denser and – inexplicably – even crustier in tone, in truth little has changed since 2010's Heavy Breathing; yeah, sure, at heart they still have that 'bunch-of-dudes-screaming-out-"Entombed, Celtic Frost, Slayer, Death, Possessed"-and-the-name-of-every-other-band-featured-in-a-record-collection-way-better-than-yours' vibe, but the honing of craft that's led to numbers like closer 'Obey' is what truly pushes this firmly into the 'buy, or fail at metal you fucker' category.

Napalm Death Utilitarian
(Century Media)

It's that time, isn't it – it's just feels right, somehow. It really 'feels' like time for another Napalm Death LP: a Tory government, a PM who to all intents and purposes appears to be the result of squeezing Margret Thatcher and the Pillsbury Doughboy into a johnny, and the rusty gears of capitalism being oiled by the blood of the workers… And yet Utilitarian is the most un-Napalm Death album Napalm Death have released in years – it's also the best thing they've released in years too. From the downtempo instrumental opener (yes, that's right, I said instrumental!), to getting avant-saxophonist John Zorn to make noises that sound like an anus-less David Cameron farting on 'Everyday Pox', to more obviously indulging their death metal passions than they have in years, Utilitarian solidifies why, for me, Napalm Death continue to be one of the most important bands this country has ever produced.

Cannibal Corpse Torture
(Metal Blade)

Meshuggah, Black Breath, Napalm Death, a new Billy Joel greatest hits and Cannibal Corpse, all in the same month!? You lot don't know how lucky you are! There's a special place in Hell (not the good kind, the kind that is like an episode of Supermarket Sweep that goes on for eternity and the only prize is Dale Winton giving you something nasty by way of a rusty spoon) reserved for people that constantly whinge: "Wahhhh, new Cannibal Corpse isn't as good as old Cannibal Corpse!" – although if the last three or four albums haven't convinced you, then Torture bloody well should. It's heavy as fuck; full of ultimate death metal riffery and ridiculously gory lyrics; full of humour; full of confident yet never indulgent technical mastery as well as the sort of deranged, hyper fast grind they made their name with; and they even find time to embarrass the death-core wank brigade (Emmure, I'm looking at you here) with the tortured groove of 'Scourge Of Iron'.

Angel Witch As Above, So Below
(Rise Above)

Oh yeah, and a new Angel Witch LP too! It's like Christmas for people with crippling social disorders, y'know, metal-heads. There aren't many bands like Angel Witch; there aren't many bands that once boasted Iron Maiden as their support act, and that by way of their self titled, 1980 debut, can claim to have influenced the likes of Metallica and Exodus. And there aren't many bands that can claim to have pulled, seemingly out of nowhere, one of the best festival performances I've ever witnessed at last year's Bloodstock. So, thank, err, Lee Dorian probably, that for now at least Kevin Heybourne has put his 'blossoming' career in tree surgery [I'll get m' (trench) coat] to one side, and pulled together an album that in the most awesome way possible sounds like everything after that 1980 debut never happened. OK, so it's basically still darker, Sabbath-ian tainted NWOBHM, but if it were 1981 right now, this'd be the best thing you've ever heard.

Christian Mistress Possession

Speaking of Angel Witch… Olympia, Washington's Christian Mistress have clearly got one or all of their previous LPs in their collection, and with this, their second LP, they have committed to wax an album that is so obscenely retro in its feel you can almost smell the late 70s. Yet the weird thing here is that getting to the end of the album is sort of like realising that you kind of fancy the weather girl on BBC News 24 by the end of her report. You started out with the intention of finding out if you'd have to stay indoors next week, but somehow ending up wondering if she likes Slayer and other thoughts not suitable for a family websheet. Then it's over and you snap out of it without really knowing what happened, but are left with a strong sensation that it was pretty enjoyable. And that it's going to rain tomorrow.

Soulfly Enslaved

Let's get one thing straight first of all: I like Soulfly, and I like this album. (Ok, two things. Whatever). But, has someone gone and spoiled everything by going and telling Max Cavalera that we think he's been in denial for about the last decade? Because it was all going so well; the more the current incarnation of Sepultura trudged forward with evermore desperately average releases, the more Soulfly continued to move away from their 'tribal' metal and towards the crust loving thrash Sepultura made their own. Now though? Well, he's very nearly fucked it all up! It's like he's finally realised that Soulfly's been becoming more like old Sepultura with every release! Half of this record, with the likes of 'Gladiator' and 'Treachery', is face-melters plain and simple, yet for some reason they're mixed in with near-returns to the tribal, nu-metal riffing of old ('Plato O Plomo') and weird Meshuggah-esque half-ideas (opener 'Resistance'). So, Max, Columnus Metallicus begs you: Kiss and make up with Andreas Kisser and reform Sepultura properly, because YOU. ARE. IN. DENIAL!

MAKE Trephine
(Self Released)

Post rock and post metal increasingly attract some pretty harsh criticisms, and whilst there's only so many times some reviewers can write "yeah, I really like that bit where it starts off quiet and then gets louder and louder, before going quiet again" before it stops being funny – if it ever was (it wasn't) – it's a deceptively hard style to nail, and a lot of the criticism it attracts is totally justified. MAKE, however, do not warrant such woefully un-funny put-downs. Combining the sort of bass heavy monotony of Horseback (unsurprising when you consider main man Scott Endres served time with them as guitarist) with lysergic doom hued riffs, Neurosis-ish atmospherics and vocals that sound like Alan Dubin when he gets some post-gravel stuck inside his post-shoe; this is a totally unexpected post-triumph. Post.

Drudkh Eternal Turn Of The Wheel
(Season Of Mist)

Politics, it's all politics, ain't it? Well, actually, no, it aint! Don't get me wrong, if a band or artist wants to use their music as a platform to espouse wilfully racist, homophobic or a morally corrupt belief system, they deserve to be taken to task – but don't dwell on it if it's not there! Some people (cough Pitchfork cough) wrote nearly 700 words about the fact that Drudkh might, possibly, maybe be Ukrainian nationalists that maybe, possibly, probably, perhaps have ties to/vocal respect for Ukrainian nationalist groups before even mentioning the fact that ETOTW is a rather stunning exploration of folk-tainted, atmospheric black metal that, whilst primarily existing in the same darkened realm as Wolves In The Throne Room, is coloured with tranquil post-rock passages and more than good enough to stand separate from the insanely reclusive band's supposed political ideals. Unlike Burzum, who are shit. Obviously.

Mike Armine Verse And Cleansing Undertones Of Wake/Lift
(Translation Loss)

A slight change of pace to end this month's column: prickly, ambient drone. Some of you may know Mike Armine as the front man and electronics dude from fairly average, astronomy obsessed post metal types Rosetta. Here though, with what is essentially a re-worked, re-release of an ambient Rosetta EP together with several new works, Armine has created the sort of uncomfortable yet cleansing noise that's the aural antidote to those terrible days when, although consumed by depression, the realisation that your life is going nowhere and you have no money to pay the rent tomorrow leads to an exhaustingly animated panic and the sensation that barbed wire is coursing through your veins – the result of which leaves you cowered in the corner of the sofa hoping to sweat the life out of yourself. Really, really cheerful shit.

And that's it. Coming next month: UFOmammut… And Rex Hamilton as Abraham Lincoln. Until then, as always… Horns up, ya shitters!