Rock Music Is Bad For Plants: A Columnus Metallicus For March

Toby Cook has discovered that magic mushrooms and Fawlty Towers don't mix, with disastrous results; fortunately, he's also been discovering the best metal releases out there right now, and is here to tell you exactly what you need to know...

Some things I have learnt in the last month:

1) You listen to metal, right? Are you crap at solving puzzles? Do you constantly feel like killing EVERYONE? Are you growing in an unhealthy way? Then stop reading this and get to a fucking doctor, because you’re a mouse.

Yes, apparently studies have found that if you subject mice to 10 hours of Anthrax a day they lose their problem solving abilities, yet after 24 hours of constant Anthrax they kill each other. However, if you play them Billy Joel they spontaneously become diabetic.

Plants, too, react similarly, with exposure to rock music causing them to ‘grow in an unhealthy way’, bend away from the speakers and die young. The study does, however, point out that: ‘If we assume that plants have musical preferences, it’s possible that rock was not one of them’. Like, no shit!

2) Bongripper’s Satan Worshipping Doom was possibly the best album that no one (myself included) bothered to listen to enough last year. Track it down any way you can, it’s been proven to make goats turn themselves inside out (maybe).

3) Don’t take magic mushrooms and then try and watch every episode of Fawlty Towers, back-to-back – just don’t.

Earth Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light I (Southern Lord)

Maybe it’s in some part a result of partaking in the kinds of activities mentioned in point number three, but even armed with nothing stronger than a cup of Yorkshire Gold, the experience of fully soaking up Angels Of Darkness… is what it must be like to hear a painting (honestly, stick with me here)…

Inside the Hirano Museum Of Art, in Akita, Japan, stretching for over 20 meters and taking up the entire wall of the museum’s largest room is a painting by ‘Leonard’ Tsugouharu Fujita titled ‘The Events In Akita’. It’s a truly phenomenal painting that depicts all four seasons in late 19th century Akita, and while it can be enjoyed in one view at the back of the hall, the only way to truly appreciate it is to get up close, start at one end and gradually work your way across – although one eye will always be slightly ahead, and you know what’s coming, the simplicity of the theme melded with the extreme mastery of craft makes it a wonder to behold. It’s one of those rare feats of art where you can fully immerse yourself in the work: there are no real surprises, but that doesn’t matter. You need only bask in the work, the texture and tiny imperfections – exactly like Angels Of Darkness…

Whilst lacking some of the complexity of its predecessor, The Bees Made Honey…, Angels Of Darkness… is totally about atmosphere, texture, and allowing yourself to ‘breathe in’ the music. Although it’s somewhat of a surprise just how well the addition of Lori Goldston’s cello works, underpinning and occasionally cutting through the sparse arrangements of drum and guitar that we’re used to, the feeling that you always know where things are going (nowhere), even in the largely improvised title track, is paradoxically what makes this such a special piece of art.

Trap Them Darker Handcraft (Prosthetic Records)

Quite literally from one extreme to the other: if Earth are like an extended study of giant oil paintings, then Trap Them are more like some sort of gross outsider art project that involves several chainsaws, acid baths and some missing stray cats. Although perhaps not quite the crustiest – or even the most ferocious and feral – d-beat loving mob around (Ramlord anyone!?), Darker Handcraft once again shows Trap Them’s remarkable ability to take Shanghai Entombed’s buzz saw guitar sound, use it to construct hypersonic Converge-like dirges and then weld the results to a framework of blast-beats that although sturdy constantly appears to be sinking in to the mud. And all the while managing to sound like a unique enough beast as to avoid the identikit, copy-cat tag.

Moments of Darker Handcraft might just be the best thing that Trap Them have committed to tape, but they’re not the moments you’d expect. Yes, most of the riffs are inspired and the grind-heavy, 50 second tracks are all well and good, but the brief diversions from the regular formula is what sets this apart from their back catalogue – the comparatively slow, primal stomp of ‘Sordid Earnings’ and the flirtation with multi-layered guitars and sparser mixing choices evident on the comparatively subtle ‘Drag The Wounds Eternal’ the cases in point.

Ultraphallus Sowberry Hagan (Riot Season)

Where the fuck do you start with a band like Ultraphallus?! Part riff-laden tumultuous doom, part jarring, hypnotic noise (think Khanate, except for people not that into eating glass); part brooding ambient rock, part minimal-ambient-electro-noise; part banjo and saxophones, and part Eugene Robinson not choking out members of his own audience but instead lending the full range of his vocal talents to an eight minute dirge (‘The Red Print’) that sounds like the sort of thing Nick Cave would hear in his nightmares if you subjected him to the same kind of experiments as William Hurt in Altered States.

Architects The Here And Now (Century Media)

Where the fuck do you start with a band like Architects?! No, seriously? On one hand they’ve taken (and been allowed) time to mature as band and have built up a strong and loyal following exactly the way a band should, with regular releases and almost interminable touring. Their last LP, Hollow Crown, sounded fucking huge and while the sing-a-long choruses wore thin, their angst and measured utilisation of the now way overused ‘djent’ guitar sound belied its accessibility. And this is not to mention getting Greg Puciato in for some guest vocals – on THAN‘s ‘Year In Year Out/Up And Away’ – or the stink they kicked up when their label released a radio edit of a track to Radio One. All pretty metal, no?

Well, no, actually. You see, on the other hand The Here And Now is almost totally devoid of the riffs, the angst and, well, the heaviness Architects previously traded on, leaving little more than a collection of catchy pop-metal – with a bit of screaming – which is barely distinguishable from the shit released by the rest of the fashion-conscious metalcore twat brigade. Shame.

Deicide To Hell With God (Century Media)

Ah, Deicide. They just haven’t been the same since the Hoffman brothers quit back in ’04, have they? Glen Benton can brand all the upside down crosses that he wants into his forehead, but let’s face it, without the considerable talents of Brian and Eric, they’re never going to get close to releasing another Deicide or Legion, and will probably end up a sad parody of themselves, right? Well, hold on there you angry looking cunt at the back in the Carnage t-shirt, because To Hell With God is just about everything you could want from a Christian hating, cencorship bating, sonically eviscerating death metal LP. Hyper-ultra-mega-fast riffing, without being inaccessibly technical, skin-peeling solos and all tighter than Satan’s grip on the Daily Mail‘s editorial staff.

The Black Spiders Sons Of The North (Dark Riders)

More often than not when us Brits attempt to pull off the whole ‘up-beat-stoner-y-blues-rock’ shtick it comes across as being sarcastic, contrived or, more frequently, just a bit shit. Don’t ask me what it is, but there’s something about being from somewhere like Corby that makes it hard to channel into the kind of ‘California swagger’ that the music necessitates. Sheffield’s Black Spiders, though, are -in short – fucking awesome. Riff after riff after dirty 12-bar riff; ‘St Peter’ sounds like the sort of thing Sleep would have recorded if they spent their evenings bombing MDMA, whilst the endless riff of ‘Si, El Diablo’ literally never gets old.

Crowbar Sever The Wicked Hand (Century Media)

Speaking of incessant, punishing riffs, there can be few in the business more adept at penning spine crushing, swamp dwelling tour-de-sludge’s than Kirk Windstein. It’s been a lengthy six year wait since the NOLA quartet’s last LP, Lifesblood For The Downtrodden, and whilst little has changed in the bands MO (unlike its line-up), there’s something altogether more complex lurking in the background. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that the extreme heavyocity is now tempered with smooth, meandering instrumental breaks (‘As I Become One’), or perhaps it’s just because I really wanted the opening track ‘Isolation (Desperation)’ to be a sludge version of that ‘Isolation’ song in The Mighty Boosh. As ever though, don’t take my word for it – fellow Quietus scribe Mark Eglinton seems to have split a sludgy log over it here.

De Magia Veterum The Devine Antithesis (Transcendental Creations)

I know what you’re thinking: ‘hum, slightly ponce-y sounding Latin name; epic cover art featuring a fleet of trumpet-playing angels and crepuscular rays emanating from an upside down Jesus figure – this must be some sort of instrumental post rock that’s going to make me cry into my Frosties because I’m so alone.’ Err, no. Fucking hell no. In fact, this is without doubt the most bracing release in this column by some distance. Those of you already familiar with Gnaw Their Tongues’ pilot Mories will have an inkling of what to expect from DMV (of whom he is the sole member) but nothing can really prepare you for the wave after unforgiving, unrelenting wave of noise, static and just sheer horror filled black metal that is The Devine Antithesis.

Mourner Mourner (Paradigms Recordings)

Lying somewhere in the middle of the vast spectrum that separates Earth and De Magia Veterum – probably on a slab, with its eyes gouged out, blood still seeping from the stumps of its severed limbs, desperately trying to force a toothless, gargled shriek as it clings to the very last vestiges of life – is Mourner. Painfully slow, supremely uncomfortable doom set to vocals that sound like Alan Dubin choking on his own spleen. And all augmented by outros that veer from choral funeral dirges to comparatively tranquil, almost Neurosis-type, post-rock meanders that, like a sick joke, hit at a faint ray of light in an album totally devoid of one.

Orange Goblin Rise Above Era Reissues (Rise Above)

Finally, how could we forget about the mighty Orange Goblin? Yes, their debut Frequencies From Planet Ten, smacks a little of a bunch of bored 20-somethings, sat around with nothing to do but drink tea, take hallucinogens and listen to Masters Of Reality, and on Coup De Grace they may have watered down some of the stoner grooves in favour of revving up some misplaced, punk-ish aggression, but along with Time Travelling Blues, The Big Black and Thieving From The House Of God they make up a collection of remarkable consistency and great awesomeness from one of Britain’s best loved and criminally underappreciated bands. If you’re reading this and don’t already own at least two of these – You. Fail. At. Metal.

Horns up, ya bastards!

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