Columnus Metallicus: August’s Heavy Metal Reviewed By Toby Cook

Can he walk at all, Or if he moves will he fall? Is he alive or dead? Has he reviews within his head? 'Iron' Toby Cook returns with more metal observations. Horns up, ya shitters...

Festival season is over.

No more fields. No more good weather. No more drifting dazed between marquees and caverns. No more warm beer and weed for breakfast. No more tents and shit hotels. No more fun. I turned 30. The Dog. Brain tumour. Dead. Everybody is boring now. “When are you going to get a girlfriend, settle down; get a proper job?” 30. Too many of my friends have kids. It’s not even that old. You should’ve figured it out by now. Cunts. I am always too busy, for anything. Never busy enough. Roadburn, Desertfest, Raw Power, Temples. Fucking trains. Was I being greedy? I’ve been there too long. My work colleagues don’t understand when I tell them I spent my birthday partying in the basement of a disused pub where they film porn once the wide-eyed clubbers have drifted out at 6am. Circle. Trap Them. Zombi. Sleep. The Heads. Bong-fucking-ripper. Eyehategod. Pig Destroyer. Celeste. Gnod…

No more fun?… Too much fun. 30? Incubate. Bloodstock. All-dayers in cramped pubs. Many more coming I can’t remember. Are you kidding? Festival season hasn’t even started…

Just as festival season ends and so does your 20’s, you think it’s all over. Buy some nice carpet slippers and spend your weekends painting the kitchen. The spare room. Fuck that. Listen to Sex Swing. Listen to Terminal Cheesecake. Listen to Pissgrave… I’m out of ideas. Thanks to HST.

And so, in this this spirit of arbitrary endings and pointless beginnings that I bring you the latest, much delayed Columnus Metallicus.

Relax. This’ll probably hurt quite a bit…

High On Fire – Luminiferous
(Century Media)

It says a hell of a lot for the status and respect that Matt Pike and High On Fire have achieved over the course of their 17 year, seven album career that even during a period of relative activity for Sleep, and following Pike’s quietly publicised battle with various addictions and personal demons, virtually no one I spoke to was expecting Luminiferous to be anything other than a total ripper of an album. (But then again a lot of people I know, at some point, started wearing those hooded poncho things that basically say “everything about who I am revolves around smoking weed” and trying to desalinate their own piss because “the fluoride in the water is how they control your mind, man”). And yet no one, surely, expected the follow-up to the raw urgency of De Vermis Mysteriis to be quite such an expansive, absolute fucking ripper of a record.

De Vermis Mysteriis, with its knotty and often confusing Ike-ian/sci-fi concept felt, and sounded, like a record born of pressure, an album where some parts were being written even as the tape was rolling; an ad hoc urgency and almost punk intensity bleeds from every squeal of feedback and frantically hammered power chord.

Luminiferous is different beast altogether – considered, concise and perhaps the most diverse and dynamically sprawling record the trio have so far created. ‘Slave To The Hive’, a four minute, skin-peeling thrash blast that feels more in tune with the notion of ‘thrash’ than the ‘Big Four’ have in a decade, for example, is immediately followed by the brooding, mid-tempo melancholy of ‘The Falconist’. Elsewhere, the landslide pace of the likes of ‘Carcosa’ and the title track find the trio doing exactly what they’ve done best over the better part of the last two decades, and yet it’s the epic, emotionally shifting ‘The Cave’, with its almost post metal dynamic shifts, that provides the most unexpected rewards. And, y’know, if you’ve just bought a hemp poncho, don’t worry, the lyrical content and concept, whilst particularly cohesive, is again centred around Illuminati conspiracies, the lizard master race, ley lines and Aztec pyramids being ancient stone spaceships… Actually, one of those might not be right.

Bong – We Are, We Were And We Will Have Been
(Ritual Productions)

It seems almost like a joke in itself, doesn’t it, given the glacial pace at which Bong’s music moves, that the quintet have summoned up a new record less than 12 months after the release of the monolithic and existentially terrifying Stoner Rock. And yet, here it is. Stoner Rock was gigantic in almost every sense – from the nearly 80 minute run time, to the clarity of the production that seemed to allow the individual instruments so much room to breathe that you could almost feel yourself being sucked through spaces by the Cthulhu-like tentacles of drone; a towering achievement in every sense. We Are…, however, is the counter point to all that – its two tracks barely reach the 20 minute mark and during opener ‘Time Regained’ in particular there is a deeply unsettling sense of claustrophobia and herbally induced paranoia. But it’s the second track, ‘Find Your Own Gods’ that sees the group drift into less explored territory. It’s perhaps no coincidence that the cover art features a section of JMW Turner’s ‘Thomson’s Aeolian Harp’, with its depiction of forgotten London in the back ground – with its languid pace and sparse instrumentation, slowly billowing syths and parched, intermittent plucks of indifferent guitars, ‘Find Your Own Gods’ meanders much like an ancient river, originating from a distant place that no longer exists, yet still effects and somewhat controls our very nature.

Will Haven – Open The Mind To Discomfort
(Artery Recordings)

Will Haven should’ve been fucking massive, we should be sat here right now talking about the Sacramento based group in the same way we’d talk about Neurosis or Converge. But we’re not. For a myriad of reasons – not least their always uncomfortable and totally inaccurate association with nu metal. (“Yeah, but, but… Grady Avenell guested on that Soulfly album!” Yeah, so what? I used to live with a guy who routinely stole most of the alcohol we drank, that doesn’t make me a thief, right?) Will Haven never ascended to the commercial or critical levels they deserved to, but if rumours of their imminent demise are to be believed then they could hardly have crafted a better swansong than Open The Mind To Discomfort. Building on the more nuanced and dirge-afflicted sound of their 2011 comeback LP Voir Dire, Open The Mind, with its unsettling synth/noise interludes and horrifically down-tuned sludge arrangements still sounds every bit part of the Will Haven oeuvre, and yet it’s draped in the weight of the experiences of life; unlike the nu-metal bands they were so unfairly lumbered with, they’ve not been afraid to grow-up, eschewing their more hardcore-based, headbanging tendencies whilst still faithfully acknowledging them. Whilst there’s clearly a strong, musical narrative running throughout, the likes of the alternately haunting and thunderously punishing ‘Hermit’ stand on their own as some of the most deeply unsettling music the quartet have ever produced.

Deathrite – Revelation Of Chaos

I don’t remember the last time something so teeth-shatteringly direct made it into one of these columns, and for that, I apologise. But, rather than send you flowers or a broach made of my foreskin, I instead bring you Dresden-based death/crust/aural-shovel-to-the-face troupe Deathrite. Buzzsaw-ed, we’ve-bought-an-Entombed-LP-or-two guitars; guttural, reverbed-to-the-red-line vocals and blast heavy, death/crusted-to-hell, cave-your-skull-in-if you’re-lucky riffs – the reference points might be overly familiar, yet if that breeds contempt, bring it the fuck on, because I doubt Deathrite give a shit, they’re “Creating the anthem(s) of an Armageddon”, and doing a blisteringly effective job of it, regardless of how much you might think they’re Swedish. Beyond the relentless, hypomanic d-beat energy of opener ‘Melting Skies’, and the blast-beat torture of ‘Salute To Death’, however, it’s the sludgier, almost early Death-like strains of ‘Determined To Rot’ and the filth infested groove of ‘Swords And Revolt’ that you’ll be blaming when your friends start to notice the constant whiff of cider on your breath… Again.

Domovoyd – Domovoyd

At some point in your life you’re going to find yourself still awake at 7:30am, frantically darting round your bedroom, manically hopping on and off your bed and every other piece of furniture, trying to swat some multi-legged mutoid-bug that you can’t see and doesn’t actually exist. Except you know that it definitely exists because you can see the impression of it moving the air. It’s going to completely freak you out for days to come, and at least one of your house mates is going to think you’ve gone totally insane. Domovoyd, the eponymously titled second LP by Finnish heavy psych outfit is the soundtrack to that very experience; warped and twisted, but not so much that it detaches from reality altogether. As precise and deceptively measured as it predecessor, the howling and colossal Oh Sensibility, this time the quartet have sublimely stripped back their psyche maelstrom even further to no less crushingly lysergic effect – you don’t need to stomp on 47 different effects peddles if one, employed at just the right moment, at just the right point in the high, will burst your third eye like Timothy Leary chomping a grape… Clarity through distortion indeed.

MAKE – The Golden Veil
(Self Released)

“I thought it was a pretty good metaphor for what I was personally trying to do myself, which was to somehow drill into my head and let the demons out”, Chapel Hill, North Carolina power trio MAKE main man Scott Enders told me in an interview shortly after the release of the band’s debut. Trephine was a brave but slightly fragmented record that conjured a sound similar to that of a psychologically disturbed Neurosis/Isis/Horseback hybrid boring deep into your cranial cavity, whilst you’re awake. And you could see where he was coming from. But, now those demons have been released and The Golden Veil sounds very much the record of a band with a clear direction and collective sense of purpose. Yes, many of the elements are wrapped up in post-isms – the galvanic, percussive intensity of ‘Breathe’, and the subtle, dynamic delicacy of both ‘The Absurdist’ and ‘The Architect’ for example. But it’s during the likes of the brooding darkness of ‘The Immortal’ – which leans as much towards the softer edges of Killing Joke’s canon as it does towards the American post-brigade – and the twitching, skin crawling bleak electronica of closer ‘In The Final Moments, Uncoiling’ when MAKE are at their most confident and unrestrained. For those still convinced that a ‘post’ prefix is short hand for ‘loud/quiet/loud/quiet’ dynamics, you need this AND a hole in your head…

Metallic Taste Of Blood – Doctoring The Dead
(Rare Noise Records)

The Italian ‘sound sculptor’ behind Obaké, a ‘maverick keyboard extraordinaire’, the onetime Swans, Killing Joke and Godflesh drummer, and that chap who plays bass for Porcupine Tree… Even now I can feel some of you starting to drift off, half a click away from some brain killing listicle on the ‘25 Reasons Why Watching Daytime TV Is Going To Make You Start Cutting Yourself Again’ – more fool you, because even without mentioning the undeniable talents possessed by the individuals involved in Metallic Taste Of Blood’s second LP, the instrumental avant-rock/dub/improv’ troupe have crafted probably the most diverse, challenging and ultimately rewarding record in this month’s column. They trade in some of the debut record’s frenetic immediacy for a more considered and, at times, dub approach (as during the likes of ‘Synthetic Tongue’). The very idea of this sort of free form musical circle jerk might sound elitist and smugly impenetrable. And yes, there are more random ideas going on here than in a coked up, 1980s ad executive’s office – but the genius of Doctoring The Dead is that the tranquil, oceanic undulations and grating noise of tracks like ‘Day Of Bones’ coalesce perfectly uncomfortably into juddering math-y excursions such as on the ludicrously titled ‘Murder Burger’. Just don’t ask me to list 24 other reasons, accompanied by gifs of Cats, or I’ll come round your house and pour bleach in you rears whilst you sleep.

Autokrator – Autokrator
(Iron Bonehead)

Okay, so everything I learned about ancient Rome I learned from Russell Crowe. But, I don’t remember anything about an unrelenting, innumerable horde of zombie centurions ransacking and totally levelling the entire empire like a volcanic annihilation, which is essentially what shadowy French troupe Autokrator sound like. Dense beyond all sensible limits the industrialised death/doom punishment of the likes of ‘The Filthy Pig Of Rome’ and the astonishingly impenetrable ‘Qualis Artifex Pereo’ move like fire storms – despite being driven by hypersonic blast beats, the oxygen-sucking dirge that envelops them creates the sense of an almost stagnant, struggling sludge tempo. Elsewhere the guttural vocals (actually, I’m not even sure ‘guttural’ is the right word, more like the earth-quaking, lava-scorched abyssal roar of the god Mors himself) afflict even the more digestible moments of the likes of ‘Imperial Whore’ like a plague, whilst the comparatively ambient title track sounds like a Caesar-like thumbs-down diatribe against the whole of civilisation. This is the sound of the coliseum crumbling from nuclear holocaust; the sacking of Carthage via use of 200 tonnes of napalm… And I’m pretty much out of shoddy Rome related references, but you get the idea.

Ommadon – Empathy For The Wicked
(Golden Mantra)

From something that is so fast it seems slow, to something so slow you can almost feel time stopping and the Earth slipping off its axis as you listen…

I ought to break quickly here for an apology, because I think Ommadon great, but because I’m a drinker (or just somewhat of a prat, you decide… #hornsupyadrunkprat) I’ve sent in a couple of live reviews for other publications where I’ve repeatedly referred to the Scottish duo as ‘Ommadom’, and from the looks of Facebook they weren’t too impressed by it, understandably. Sorry fellas.

Having decamped from what I want to imagine to be their Ed Gein-like shack (albeit without the human skin décor and nipple belts) in the remote Scottish highlands, the move to relative civilization has thankfully had little effect on their bleak and slothful drone/doom summoning and crackling, narcotic dirges. And yet Empathy For The Wicked is nonetheless the pair’s most expansive release to date. While the A-side lumbers forth like SunnO))) covering Iron Monkey, it’s arguably the paranoid and mostly percussion-less noise dirge of side B that provides the most ominously foreboding trip.

Pissgrave – Suicide Euphoria
(Profound Lore)

What the fuck is this?! I mean, seriously, what the actual fuck? If you imagine the sound of Autokrator, except they’ve got a skat fetish and have spent the last two weeks shooting speedballs directly into their arteries, you’re probably somewhere close to the torturous aural horror that is Suicide Euphoria, the new record by Philadelphia’s Pissgrave. Perhaps what is most shocking here, though, is that an album titled something as ludicrous as Suicide Euphoria, made by a band with a name as wilfully stupid as Pissgrave, is actually, y’know, good! I call it the Shitfucker paradox – unlike virtual novelty acts such as Torsofuck, I Shit On Your Face and Anal Vomit, the abusively expeditive velocity of Pissgrave’s death/grind is oozing with both technical nous and strangulating riffery. And vocals that sound like a St. Bernard getting sucked into a woodchipper. Whilst it’s the anarchic pace that draws you in, however, the relentlessness is teamed just often enough with slow, sullen grooves, that when the Cannibal Corpse-on-crack riffs of ‘Fields Of Scattered Bones’ and ‘The Second Sorrowful Mystery’ dissipate into chugging death metal riffs, the respite is not only welcome, it’s practically laxative.

And that, my friends, is that for another edition. Coming next time: Ahab, Pentagram and The Kurt Russell Chinese Scream Collective.

Horns up, ya shitters!

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today