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Columnus Metallicus

Horns Up Ya Shitters! The Best Metal Of April Reviewed
Toby Cook , May 3rd, 2012 08:58

The recent torrentially wet weather is all the excuse I needed to stay indoors; here's some more painfully uninteresting things I've learned in the past four weeks by staring into the gaping, soulless abyss that is the internet instead of working:

1) Forget Mayan prophecies, total economic meltdown and Skynet, it's 'cat breading' that has finally signalled the end of civilisation as we know it. Putting a slice of fucking bread around the head of a fucking cat! Seriously, what's the point in continuing to live if you're spending your time putting bread on cats?

One magazine actually said: "The concept is so wonderful it seems shocking that no one thought of cat breading before and many are questioning how they failed to spot the potential of placing their pet's head into a slice of bread." The reason that no one thought of the idea before is that those are the sorts of ideas you get when taking drugs that later make you cry, because you think you've gone insane forever and want it to stop.

2) Alarmingly, the only voices of dissent are from those who claim the cats don't enjoy the experience. Enjoy it? Can they even comprehend it? I'm not even sure I can fully comprehend it. Because it's putting bread on cats. What's next? Duck cheesing?

UFOmammut Oro: Opus Primum

I'm genuinely starting to run out of superlatives and far-less-witty-than-I-think-they-are similes to describe Opus Primum, but to be honest if you still don't get why exactly it is that UFOmammut are the very best of the 4,777 metal bands in Italy then I'm sorry, but things just aren't going to work out between us, and I think we should start seeing other people. From Snailking to Lucifer Songs through to Idolum and their previous one track odyssey Eve, UFOmammut, fittingly, have never failed to continually evolve their sound far beyond lazy classifications like 'cosmic doom' or 'psych metal'. Though having taken a turn for the more tantric on Opus Primum (the first part of a double album package completed by the soon to be released Opus Alter) the slow, pulsating riffs and empyrean atmospherics create the sense that reality is slowly being unravelled before your very eyes. And filled with massive fucking riffs.

High On Fire De Vermis Mysteriis
(Century Media)

Massive fuck-off riffs are, of course, great and everything, but sometimes, just sometimes, the way you know you're hearing a great LP is solely down to the way it induces severe involuntary reactions in the listener. I don't know what the metal equivalent of that scene in Beetlejuice where the family spasms around the room to 'Day-o (The Banana Boat Song)' by Harry Belafonte is – it's probably something like throwing a horned hand skywards, gurning like Meshuggah's Jens Kidman and making noises like you're trying to shit out some garden furniture.

In fact, it is that – that's totally the equivalent, and that's totally what happens when you venture into the new LP from metal's ultimate dudes, High On Fire. Yet as well as boasting even crustier production courtesy of Kurt Ballou, there's a slightly chaotic urgency that hasn't been there before and if the likes of 'Fertile Green', 'Madness Of An Architect' and the brutally compelling 'Romulus And Remus' don't move you, then fuck off home with a copy of Billy Joel's Innocent Man because you're not as metal as you think you are. This is easily the best metal album of the year... so far!

Dog Shredder Brass Tactics
(Good To Die Records)

What a fucking brilliant name! I mean, c'mon, can you even picture what a dog shredder would look like? Yeah, exactly: Pretty grim. I actually wish I owned one, I'd feed all four members of Steel Panther into it. I imagine the results would be a bit like that bit in Fargo where....

I'll be totally honest, 97.5% of what motivated me to listen to this LP in the first place was the fact that this Bellingham, Washington trio are called Dog Shredder, so the fact that two of the three tracks contained on Brass Tactics sound like The Dillinger Escape Plan playing Baroness covers in ZZ Top's living room is a total bonus – although oddly it's the narcotic, Hammond organ-led closing track 'Battle 07' that proves the highlight.

Torche Harmonicraft

Some of you, I've no doubt, will find a shit tonne of reasons to pretend to not like Torche any more: "Wah... They're not art metal any more"; "Wah... Songs For Singles was a bit cack"; WAH!!! He's, like, actually singing, and there's pop hooks and... and...". And in a sense you're right, except that all those reasons are why I fucking love Harmonicraft. It's why Torche are so good. Yes, there are sumptuous pop hooks and sing-a-long melodies, but this album's still heavier than a brass Rhino's swollen brass testicles – as catchy as 'Skin Moth' is and as epic as 'Snakes Are Charmed' is, you'd never call them 'radio friendly'. Haven't we all spent enough evenings sat in the dark listening to Anaal Nathrakh, looking at girls on the internet and wondering how much toast we'd have to eat before we stopped breathing? Can't we be uplifted by Steve Brooks' soaring vocals or the Echoplex-ed sherbet headfuck of the title track instead?... Or you could read Amanda Barokh's far more sensible review.

Wolfbrigade Damned
(Southern Lord)

Sorry, but four albums is about as long as I can go these days without a bit of crust – but what a way to fall off the wagon. Authentic. Swedish. D-beat. Crust. Punk. With the emergence of Trap Them and the increasingly crust-leaning Black Breath, along with a finally growing appreciation of the likes of Victims and Skitsystem, you lot are spoiled for choice for a crusty fix right now. And yet there's still few who have been as righteously and consistently crusty for as long as Wolfbrigade. While obviously this is no great leap forward in style or substance when held up to any other moment in their back catalogue – which basically means it's absolutely fucking gnarly – it's still a perfect crusty collision of dense, unrelenting dynamics and barely controlled, cathartic crusty rage. You have no excuse for not owning this record – It's really very crusty indeed.

3Inches Of Blood Long Live Heavy Metal
(Century Media)

The only people who could possibly like denim and leather more than these Canadian old-schoolers are Saxon fans. Normally that'd be a troubling revelation, but this time it doesn't matter, because if you like Saxon you're gonna love this lot. Mind you, that said a lot of people justifiably don't like Saxon, and I suppose using the phrase 'whether you like Saxon or not you'll love _' could be applied to almost any album ever made (Example: Whether you like Saxon or not you'll love Erotic Diarrhoea Fantasy by Torsofuck). Luckily 3 Inches Of Blood have saved me from having to think of ways to take the piss by crafting a mature, cultured and shit-hot slab of NWOBHM perfection. Cam Pipes' soaring, Halford-esque, Dickinson-grazing vocals sound like they're being beamed straight from 1980 and there's a Wakeman-loving organ solo in 'Look Out' that I just can't stop playing. It really doesn't matter whether you like Saxon or not after all, this is genius.

Pelican Ataraxia/Taraxis
(Southern Lord)

Two different cities; two different engineers; four different recording studios. As to just how laboured the birth of this EP was, as it turns out, doesn't really matter. Pelican may have rediscovered the art of the riff on 2009's What We All Come To Need but there was something naggingly polished about it, it just didn't have the same sparse, statically charged feel to it as, say, Australasia, did it? This EP may be very, very short at a mere 18 minutes (it's post metal, that's short, get over it) yet its brief course shows not only a near flawless cohesion of that old discordance with more luscious production, but it also sees the band successfully venturing into more ambient and almost avant-folk territories. If only it'd didn't feel more like a teaser trailer for a future full length – now all I want to do is to go and see The Dark Knight Rises.

Inverloch Dusk... Subside

Y'know, if Pelican took their ambient route to its dark, logical conclusion; if they added the occasional blast beat and grind break; if they siphoned in some death metal vocal porridge-ing, they'd probably be pretty close to where Inverloch exist. Shit, if they moved to Melbourne they'd pretty much be Inverloch. They're not though, and besides Inverloch are something a bit special. To make a record where the glacially slow doom passages are actually heavier than the death/grind explosions is just sadistic. Beautifully sadistic.

Prong Carved Into Stone

'Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck'? Fuck yeah! What true metalhead doesn't like that song? It's been a long, long wait for this one - five years in fact - and you're going to hear a lot of banging on about how Carved Into Stone "fits seamlessly into the best of their back catalogue" and how it "congeals all the genres Prong have ever visited into one bludgeoning whole" and so on. And whilst that's kind of what's great about it, it's also why I'm not sure I'll be playing this anywhere near as often as I thought I would in two or three months' time – here Prong are all things to all men. Granted, this could have been terrible, but in shanghai-ing Tony Campos for bass duties and getting 3 Inches Of Blood's Alexei Rodriguez behind the kit Tommy Victor's formed a formidable team; 'Revenge... Best Served Cold' is indeed classic Prong whilst 'List Of Grievances' reminds you of everything that was good about NY hardcore. But, I dunno, a bit of this, a bit of hardcore, a bit of the other, a bit of industrial, the odd full on metal solo... Make your own damn minds up for a change.

Municipal Waste The Fatal Feast
(Nuclear Blast)

If you like drinking beer, smoking weed and listening to thrash then not only are you the only other person laughing at this column, you also like Municipal Waste – it's sort of like E=mc-totally wrecked. What's more you'll especially like their Nuclear Blast debut The Fatal Feast. Still recklessly fast, yet with ever more precision and dexterity, whether these days they're writing songs about zombies in space or putting in brief Vangelis-ish intros ('The Fatal Feast'), as they continue to expectorate a sort of 'D.R.I. for Jeff Spicoli' style crossover (if you don't know who he is then stop what you're doing, look him up and watch the film) they continue to be a perfect, beery soundtrack to the party. But then again, what were you expecting? Operation Mindcrime or the fucking White Album or something?

Anyway, that's it for another month. Coming up next time: Bong, Horseback... And those droids you were looking for. Horns up, ya shitters!