011 Best of 2012

Neurosis

Of course they’re on our list. They’re still Mad Max’s favorite band. (Neurosis, duh.)

We’re back with our Best of 2012 list, only four months late this year. Maybe next year, we’ll cut it down to three months? 2012 was yet another banner year for diverse metal offerings, and TONS of great metal releases struck our collective fancy, from well-established bands (Napalm Death, Paradise Lost, Morbid Angel, Deftones) to not-so-well-known-yet acts (Author & Punisher, Abiotic, Inverloch, Dragged Into Sunlight, Mother’s Green). Our list mixes the familiar with the unknown, and without further ado…

#10: “Rise Up” from Testament’s Dark Roots of Earth (Nuclear Blast). Is it just us, or have Testament gotten better with age? Even more amazing is that four-fifths of the band is the original line-up: Chuck Billy, Alex Skolnick, Eric Peterson, Greg Christian, and they added the mighty Gene Hoglan as drummer—who actually played with them previously on 1997’s Demonic during their lean years.

#9: “Wrong Side of History” from Kowloon Walled City’s Container Ships (Brutal Panda). KWC are a post-core/-rock quartet from San Francisco who’d probably be on Hydra Head if they were still around. On tour now with Zozobra (who also has a new album out, starring Adam McGrath and J.R. Conners of Cave In).

#8: “Ash” from Abstracter’s Tomb of Feathers (The Path Less Traveled). Like many metalheads, we have an affinity for Bay Area bands, and Abstracter blew our minds this year. They play Neurosis-styled, build-and-collapse doom but more in the vein of Mindrot, -16-, and Yob. “Ash” is 16 minutes long (our longest podcast cut yet), so get ready to DOOM!

#7: “The Innsmouth Look” from Chowder’s Passion Rift (I Voidhanger). Chowder play amazing, vocalless prog-doom from Maryland that’s a crooked cross between Rush and Karma to Burn. Their label, I Voidhanger, will be an interesting one to watch for cool bands. Chowder is not the greatest choice for names, mind you, but does that make their fans Chowderheads (“Chowdah-heads” for all you New Englanders)?

Haarp's brilliant and heavy Husks

Atmospheric and doomy, Haarp’s album cover previews their smart and arty brand of heavy doom, Lou-zianna style.

#6: “bear” from haarp’s Husks (Housecore). With a little “h” but a big sound, haarp are another New Orleans band molded after Eyehategod and Crowbar, but slower—more akin to North Carolina’s Weedeater but with longer songs. Three tracks only on this current album Husks, and our song pick “bear” is almost 9 minutes long. On Phil Anselmo’s label, Housecore, natch!

#5: “Curses Scribed in Gore” from Hooded Menace’s Effigies of Evil (Relapse). Here’s a Finnish band whose sole purpose is to emulate all the classic death/doom of Winter, Cathedral, and Candlemass. Special thanks to Mark & Jason for getting us into these dudes with Episode 048 of Requiem Metal Podcast!

 

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell

Don’t worry. The Mystery Machine is out back idling. Ready for the getaway. It’s okay that you’re freakin’ out right now. That makes two of us.

#4: “iDeath” from Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s Don’t Hear It…Fear It! (Rise Above/Metal Blade). This oddly named band hails from England and is named after a real-life British naval officer from the 17th century. An obvious titular nod to Sir Lord Baltimore, this wily trio play psychedelic rock/metal like the MC5, Status Quo, et al., plus they have a man-sized red bird as their mascot!

#3: “Raise the Dawn” from Neurosis’s Honor Found in Decay (Neurot). Our third Bay Area band on the list, Neurosis always produces quality, thought-provoking music and has been a major influence on Isis, which in turn were the inspiration for countless more bands. They have always had exactly the same line-up, with the exception of Noah Landis, who joined in 1996 and quit just recently. This is their tenth studio album, and they show no sign of early retirement.

#2: “Vanquish in Vengeance” from Incantation’s Vanquish in Vengeance (Listenable). This perennially solid band is also featured in our next episode, Episode 011: SDM Vol. 2, and we spend more time talking about them there. Hands down, one of the very best American DM bands!

 

Katabatic

Pondering Portuguese heaviness. Move over Os Mutantes: Katabatic is the new psychedelic.

And the #1 song of the year: “Wonder-Room” from

Katabatic’s Heavy Water (Raging Planet). “Katabatic” is an adjective describing the cold, fast wind that travels downslope from mountaintops. The band Katabatic are a four-piece from Lisbon, Portugal that play almost vocalless atmospheric doom in the vein of Isis or, more obviously, Pelican. The light/dark shift in our song choice, “Wonder-Room,” just blows us away like those katabatic winds!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

009 Hydra Head Records part 2

The conclusion to our tribute to Hydra Head Records and label prez Aaron Turner, this episode contains even more quality music from a label that has given us so much enjoyment and inspiration over the years.

Scissorfight

Scissors 0. Scissorfight 1.

Scissorfight, Mantrapping for Sport and Profit (“New Hampshire’s All Right If You Like Fighting”), 2001

Do you like to fight? Because Scissorfight will smash your face! Hailing from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, this burly quartet, helmed by vocalist/mountain-man Ironlung, plays monster truckin’ meat rock about life in the Granite State. Scissorfight were one of the first signings to Tortuga Recordings, started by then-HH-label publicist Mark Thompson (even though both labels were run out of the same office, Aaron had nothing to do with Tortuga, other than playing in Old Man Gloom). This track has a huge Karma to Burn-esque chorus, but ultimately Scissorfight are most related to ’90s-era COC with their massive Southern-rock chords and plenty of Clutch-esque funk. The band went on extended hiatus in 2006 after the release of theirJaggernaut album but has since emerged with a Greatest Hits album on their own Scissorfight Records, now available on iTunes.

monopolies_big_business

Big Business, Head for the Shallow (“Technically Electrified”), 2005

Big Business started out as a duo from Seattle playing Melvins-esque heavy sludge/doom rock but are now a four-piece or what they call a “power quartet.” Bassist/vocalist Jared Warren (formerly of the incredible indie band Karp) and drummer Coady Willis (of Murder City Devils) released their debut album in 2005 on Hydra Head and the next year became members of the Melvins. They’re still members of the Melvins but have managed seven releases to date as Big Business and are currently signed to their own label, Gold Medal Records. The rumbling, bass-heavy vibe of this song totally exemplifies this band!

Zozobra, Harmonic Tremors (“Kill and Crush”), 2007

Zozobra was formed by Caleb Scofield (bassist for Cave In) and Santos Montano, both of whom play in Old Man Gloom—which, in turn, is another name for Zozobra, the giant marionette that is built and ritually burned in effigy every fall in New Mexico. This was Scofield’s first opportunity to write his own songs, which he had been unable to do in Cave In and Old Man Gloom. “Kill and Crush” underscores his earthshaking bass sound and harsh vocals, but also highlights his clean (but processed, here) pipes. Their most recent album is 2008’s Bird of Prey.

Torche, Songs for Singles (“Cast into Unknown”), 2010

Now a household name, Torche began as an indie metal band in Miami after Cavity guitarist Steve Brooks and Juan Montoya dissolved the band Floor in 2002. Brooks took the “doom pop” aesthetic of Floor to great lengths in Torche and in the process redefined how poppy truly heavy music could be. Hydra Head served as a great stepping stone for Torche, as they released the lauded Meanderthal in 2008 and the Songs for Singles EP in 2010. Torche have since been signed to Volcom Entertainment, the record label subsidiary of Volcom sports clothing. With wickedly catchy songs and clean vocals, Torche is a band that bridges the gap between genuine metalheads and the Warped Tour crowd.

Atomsmasher, Atomsmasher (“Thunderspit”), 2001

Atomsmasher (now renamed Phantomsmasher) was one of the first releases on the noise imprint, Double H Noise Industries, which went on to spotlight records from Sunn0))), Merzbow, et al. Also the guitarist for OLD, an Earache band from the early ’90s, James Plotkin is the mastermind behind Atomsmasher. Municipal Waste drummer Dave Witte has played on 50+ metal albums including Human Remains, Black Army Jacket, Burnt by the Sun, Candiria, Exit-13, and Discordance Axis. Check out the video for “Thunderspit” (available on James’ website, www.plotkinworks.com)!

 

5ive

5ive

5ive, Hesperus (“Big Sea”), 2008

Another Tortuga Recordings band, 5ive are a two-piece, guitar & drums, hailing from Boston. Chris has seen them live several times, and they often set up their gear on the floor in front of the stage and played one or two long jams—a very unique band. Their music is completely instrumental, though Jonah Jenkins of Milligram sang on two songs on their sophomore album, 2001’s The Telestic Disfracture. Isis bassist Jeff Caxide also played on two albums. They haven’t released any new material since 2008’s Hesperus, so maybe they’ll break their silence soon?

Discordance Axis, Our Last Day (“Sega Bass Fishing” and “Ikaruga”), 2005

Discordance Axis was a grindcore band from New Jersey starring Jon Chang and Dave Witte of Atomsmasher. Though their sound is quite unique, few understood how important they were until Decibel did a Hall of Fame feature on their 2000 album The Inalienable Dreamless back in March of 2009. Our friend Kevin Stewart-Panko called that record “the most forward-thinking grindcore album of all time.” Hydra Head is credited with bringing DA to the metal forefront, because their previous releases were nearly impossible to find. Their Hydra Head albums were packaged in DVD cases and came with long lyrics booklets. “Sega Bass Fishing” is actually their cover of the theme song of the videogame for the Sega Dreamcast! Chang now heads up Gridlink, and of course Witte is drumming for Muni Waste.

Milligram (photo by Chris Ayers)

Milligram (photo by Chris Ayers)

Milligram, Hello Motherf**ker! (“After the Riot”), 2000

A short-lived heavy rock band from Boston and another jewel in Tortuga’s crown, Milligram was formed by Jonah Jenkins, storied vocalist from hardcore heroes Only Living Witness and Miltown. Milligram were much more rock-based than Only Living Witness, and “After the Riot” is a perfect example of their adherence to a post-punk aesthetic. Fun fact: the HMF line-up of Milligram reunited for a one-off show in October 2012, then the following weekend they reunited again and played one show with the line-up that recorded 2002’s This Is Class War.

 

Knut, Terraformer (“Torvalds”), 2005

Pronounced “knoot,” Knut are a mathcore/sludgecore band from Geneva, Switzerland—one of the few international bands on the Hydra Head roster. Back in the day, Knut got a lot of Isis references, partially because they were on the label run by Aaron Turner, but they sound more like hardcore like Botch without the crazy tempo changes. We like “Torvalds” in particular because of the female voice samples at the bridge—very unexpected right in the eye of the storm!

Harvey Milk.  (photo by Chris Ayers)

Harvey Milk. (photo by Chris Ayers)

 

Harvey Milk, Life…The Best Game in Town (“Death Goes to the Winner”), 2008

One of our all-time favorite art-sludge bands, Harvey Milk has quite the history with us: our former editor at Charlotte’s Indie File, Samir Shukla, released their 1994 album My Love Is Higher Than Your Assessment of What My Love Could Be on his Yesha label, later reissued by Relapse in 2007. “Death Goes to the Winner” is the only metal song with a lyrical reference to the My So-Called Life TV show. This track even has a Beatles reference at the coda: they sing a couple of lines from “A Day in the Life” then end the song with that sustained piano note—one of the most famous final chords (of the most important Beatles song) in history, ending the Sgt. Pepper album. More to come in our forthcoming Harvey Milk episode!

Old Man Gloom, Seminar II: The Holy Rites of Primitivism Regressionism (“Cinders of the Simian Psyche”), 2001

Arguably the most famous band on the Tortuga roster, OMG was birthed by Aaron Turner as a side project to Isis but grew into a supergroup with Santos Montano on drums, Converge’s Nate Newton on guitar, and Cave In’s Caleb Scofield on bass. Their sound is a melding of sludgecore, experimental electronics (something that Turner would expand on in his ambient/noise band, House of Low Culture), and doom rock. Their early lyrics and CD booklets talked about research on primates and the evolution and de-evolution therein. Though Isis called it quits, OMG just put out a new album last year, titled simply No—which, strangely enough, is their first non-Tortuga album; instead, it’s a straight-up Hydra Head release.

Special thanks to Aaron Turner for setting us straight about the Tortuga relationship. Long live Hydra Head!

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

008 Hydra Head Records part 1

“The decision to pull the plug has not been an easy one, and in some ways is a not a choice at all.  The simple fact of the matter is we’ve been running on empty for a while now and cannot afford to keep our doors open for much longer. Years of imbalance between creative ideals and financial realities, personal problems amongst the label operators, an unwillingness to compromise our aesthetic standards, a tendency towards releasing challenging (i.e. unmarketable) artists, and the steady decline of the music industry in general, are amongst the chief reasons for our inability to continue.” (Aaron Turner, September 10, 2012)

Sniff, sniff. . . Hydra Head Records

Sniff, sniff. . . Hydra Head Records

The night they drove ol’ Hydra Head down was indeed a dark day in metaldom. Like many fans, we first stumbled upon then-Boston-based Hydra Head Records in 1997 through strictly metal channels in the form of the In These Black Days seven-inch series. Our fave bands at the time—EHG, Brutal Truth, Coalesce, et al.—paid tribute to Black Sabbath with unique interpretations of their songs (like A.C.’s version of “Sabbra Cadabra” ripping off Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra”). Since Hydra Head molded our young minds into true metal critics, it seems only fitting that we devote two full episodes to the incredible legacy that this fiercely indie label leaves behind. With that moldy Sinatra song in mind, Hydra Head did it their way all the time, every time, for all 236 (give or take) phenomenal releases. Here’s to you, Aaron!

Botch, We Are the Romans (“C. Thomas Howell as the ‘Soul Man’”), 1999

We already had an entire podcast planned on Botch, but we shelved it to focus on Hydra Head as a whole for the time being. This quartet from Tacoma, Washington is one of the greatest hardcore/mathcore bands of all time!  Along with Dillinger Escape Plan and Coalesce, they helped to pioneer this particular subgenre of metal, starting with their blistering HH debut, 1998’s American Nervoso. We Are the Romans is one of our favorite albums of all time, no question—and it holds up strongly to the test of time.

Cavity

Cavity

 Cavity, On the Lam (“Sung from a Goad”), 2001

From Miami, Cavity was a sludgecore band akin to Eyehategod, Iron Monkey, Bongzilla, et al. They had scattered releases on half a dozen labels from the mid-’90s to around 2001 when they broke up (interestingly enough, their 1997 Rhetoric debut Somewhere Between the Train Station and the Dumping Grounds contains a full live set hidden in the pregap of the CD!). HH breathed new life into their career with this new full-length and two reissues, and after the group dissolved, members went on to form Floor, Torche, and Black Cobra.

Keelhaul

Keelhaul. . . y’all

Keelhaul, II (“New Void”), 2001

Cleveland, Ohio bruisers Keelhaul was the supreme mathcore band of the late ’90s/early ’00s. Every album is a mind-boggling workout of fretboard gymnastics, pogoing tempos, and sporadic screams. And you will never witness a musician more uproarious onstage than drummer Will Scharf. Are they still together?  On extended hiatus?  Who knows, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see another release from them anytime now.

Jesu, Jesu (“Friends Are Evil”), 2004

Formed by Justin Broadrick after the original demise of UK’s Godflesh in 2002, Jesu took its name from the final song on Godflesh’s 2001 swan song, Hymns. This sound is more post-metal than Godflesh’s smothering industrial metal, and it has since morphed from guitar-based gravity to an electronic heaviness, with more emphasis on Justin’s clean vocals. “Friends Are Evil” is long at over nine epic minutes but exemplifies the early concept of where Justin was going with Jesu before he divested himself completely of the Godflesh influences.

Pelican, City of Echoes (“Winds with Hands”), 2007

From Chicago, Pelican are also post-metal but leaning more toward stoner/doom and post-rock and are completely instrumental. They released their debut eponymous EP in 2001 on Hydra Head and are still going strong, now on Southern Lord Records. 2007’s City of Echoes was their last full-length for Hydra Head and, we think, their best album. Their newest release, this year’s Ataraxia/Taraxis, was produced by Isis drummer Aaron Harris.

Cattle Press, Hordes to Abolish the Divine (“Crowskin”), 2000

From Brooklyn, New York, Cattle Press was a short-lived band with only a handful of releases. Their sound was doom/sludge with heaping helpings of thrash and hardcore. Guitarist Joey Capizzi had a similar band called Iabhorher that contributed a song to the famous Cry Now, Cry Later comp on Pessimiser/Theologian along with a rare Cattle Press track, and bassist Eddie Ortiz went on to join Candiria and later formed the black metal/thrash outfit The Dying Light. Hordes to Abolish the Divine was the very first HH promo that Chris was sent for review!

Cable

Cable

Cable, Northern Failures (“Black Leather Mustache”), 2001

This noise quartet from Manchester, Connecticut, has been on a slew of labels over the years and is currently part of the The End Records roster. Cable’s sound is noise-core, though over nearly twenty years they’ve gone through many different styles, including Southern rock-tinged metal, doom, sludge and hardcore. The voice sample that bookends “Black Leather Mustache” is from Harmony Korine’s 1997 cult film Gummo. Northern Failures was their last release on HH and was produced by Steve Austin of Today Is the Day; that album also contains their noisy cover of the Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See”!

Harkonen

Harkonen

Harkonen, Shake Harder Boy (“The Burly Spur”), 2002

Also from Tacoma, Washington—same as Botch!—Harkonen is one of many bands with names inspired by Frank Herbert’s Dune (see also Sandrider, Shai Hulud, Stillsuit, et al.). Bassist Ben Verellen is the brother of Botch frontman Dave Verellen. Harkonen’s sound is noisy hardcore, though on later releases they evolved to a more progressive hardcore with more tempo change-ups. Verellen is currently playing with Helms Alee, another HH band, and making/selling high-end custom guitar amps and pre-amps (check out www.verellenamplifiers.com).

Cave In, Jupiter (“In the Stream of Commerce”), 2000

One of the earliest signings to HH and the most successful & influential, Boston’s Cave In are still going strong. Jupiter turned the hardcore world on its side with its melodic structures and Steve Brodsky’s clean vocals—truly one of the best metal albums ever! A glorious Cave In episode is also on the docket for us…

Stay tuned for the companion episode, Hydra Head Records, Part II!

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

007 Baroness- Yellow & Green

Colored vinyl with some big ol’ artwork. The best way to enjoy the brushstrokes of John Baizley.

We shift gears in this episode and not only talk about a single band but a single album from a single band. Our shift in gears is analogous to said single band’s shift in gears, musically. Angry sludgesters Baroness turn into deft indie rockers on their new Yellow & Green. Spacey ’60s narcotics in one hand, sledgehammer in the other, the band lobotomizes longtime listeners and will undoubtedly acquire many new ones as well.

This new double LP reaches across multiple genres in tapping a well-spring of influences and will appeal to a broad range of music fans. Comparisons to Mastodon, Queens of the Stone Age, and Cave In will be peppered with critics’ invocations of Pink Floyd, Killing Joke, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, and perhaps Radiohead. Dig a little deeper and you might hear buzzing insects or a dash of alt-country. Turned off already, metal purist? Well, you never gave Baroness the time of day anyway. Yellow & Green will surely recruit as well as alienate, but go back to even the early EPs and you’ll hear that Baroness have been on said trajectory all along. They are obviously interested in pushing themselves. We’re glad they have the guts, and we’re hoping that it’ll turn out net positive. A major-label masterpiece may be within the next two or three records.

Artwork spread for Yellow and Green by Baroness

Full blown Yellow & Green cover art. See the cranium squiggles?

Tagged , ,

006 Maryland Death Fest 2012

Chris attended the Maryland Deathfest this year over Memorial Day weekend, while Spencer stayed at home and wept over missing the live sets of over 50 metal bands from all subgenres from around the world. This was the tenth year of the Deathfest’s existence at the Sonar in beautiful downtown Baltimore, and it continues to be the greatest place for people-watching and buying rare metal merch! We chose ten of our favorite bands that played the Deathfest, with songs from their actual setlists:

“Everyday Pox,” Napalm Death’s Utilitarian (2012) – Century Media

This may be the first ND tune to feature a saxophone, played by none other than John Zorn! The greatest thing about seeing Napalm play here was that as soon as they finished, we walked across the lot to see Godflesh, their old labelmates back in the Earache days—plus, Justin Broadrick of Godflesh used to be in Napalm; he played on side one of their 1988 debut album, Scum.

Godflesh live at Maryland DeathFest 2012

Mechanized metal at its finest. Godflesh, y’all.

“Crush My Soul,” Godflesh’s Selfless (1994) – Earache/Columbia

One of the most influential industrial metal bands, EVER. They reunited for this show and three other European festivals this summer, and they hadn’t toured the USA since 1996. “Crush My Soul” was the latest song they played; the rest were older (“Like Rats,” “Christbait Rising,” “Mothra,” et al.). Check YouTube for the video for “Crush My Soul”: one of my all-time favorites!

 

Confessor live at Maryland DeathFest 2012

Both killer and confounding. Confessor live at Maryland DeathFest 2012

“Uncontrolled,” Confessor’s Condemned (1991) – Earache

This version of “Uncontrolled” is taken from this year’s Uncontrolled demo compilation on Divebomb Records (thanks to my good buddy Matt!). Once promoted as a doom metal band from Raleigh, North Carolina, Confessor are more like progressive thrash. They recorded only one album, 1991’s Condemned, and were on the European leg of the famous Gods of Grind tour with Carcass and Entombed. They broke up before their second album in the early ’90s but reunited in 2002 after guitarist Ivan Colon passed away. Scott Jeffreys’ Geddy Lee-esque vocals put the band way out in left field, but live they crushed the crowd!

“Upon the Sight of the Other Shore,” Yob’s Atma (2011) – Profound Lore

Doom metal from Eugene, Oregon. Vocalist/guitarist Mike Scheidt is mesmerizing in concert; the band completely smothered the inside stage. To show his softer side, Scheidt also has an all-acoustic album out on Thrill Jockey, titled Stay Awake, if Yob are too much for you.

Morgoth live at Maryland DeathFest 2012

Das Morgoth! Ist gut!!

“Resistance,” Morgoth’s Odium (1994) – Century Media

One of the earliest German death metal bands, Morgoth were also one of the first bands signed to Century Media. They broke up in 1996 but have reunited for this show and a bunch of European festivals. Odium is one of Chris’ all-time favorite metal albums, plus they have a brand-new DVD out now!

 

Pito!....Pito!!......PITO!!!!

Que onda, Brujeria!? Live at Maryland DeathFest 2012

“Raza Odiada (Pito Wilson),” Brujeria’s Raza Odiada (1995) – Roadrunner

The famous Mexican metal band, back again! Dino Cazares of Fear Factory isn’t in the band anymore, but playing live at the MDF was Shane Embury of Napalm Death on bass and, I think, Jeff Walker of Carcass on guitar. All of the in-between-song banter was in Spanish, and all band members wore kerchiefs over their faces like banditos!

“Boiled Angel,” Dragged Into Sunlight’s Hatred for Mankind (2011) – Prosthetic

Liverpool, UK’s Dragged Into Sunlight play awe-inspiring blackened doom/sludge metal. They go by one-initial pseudonyms, and they played at the MDF with their backs to the crowd until the last few minutes of their last song! Weird voice samples are placed throughout the songs on the album (came out in 2009 on Mordgrimm, a small UK label, and re-released by Prosthetic in 2011), but I don’t recall hearing any in concert, due to the deafening volume.

“Despise the Sun,” Suffocation’s Despise the Sun (1998) – Relapse

Pioneering death metal from Long Island and one of the first bands signed to Relapse Records in the early ’90s, Suffocation are also one of the only influential death-metal bands to boast two African-American members: guitarist Terrance Hobbs and former drummer Mike Smith. They have a new album due out next year!

Noothgrush live at Maryland DeathFest 2012

Mr. Rogers’ favorite doom band. Noothgrush.


“Useless,” Noothgrush’s Failing Early, Failing Often compilation (2001) – Slap A Ham

Stunning doom/sludge from San Jose, CA, Noothgrush released only one full-length album in their lifetime but 10+ splits/compilations! They broke up in 2001 but reunited for a few shows to promote the Live For Nothing live album, released in 2011 by Southern Lord. I was dumbfounded that sooo many younger people in the crowd knew their songs and were screaming the lyrics at the top of their lungs. One of my favorite sets of the weekend!

“Existo Vulgoré,” Morbid Angel’s Illud Divinum Insanus (2011) – Season of Mist

What more can be said about Morbid Angel? They made Tampa the death metal capital of the world. This track is taken from their newest album, Illud Divinum Insanus (the Latin doesn’t make any sense here), the first with founding member David Vincent back in the fold since 1996. Tim Yeung from Hate Eternal (who’s filling in while founding drummer Pete Sandoval heals from back surgery) was a whirlwind of arms, sticks and cymbal crashes. This is a controversial album because of the techno leanings in some songs, but they only played this and “Nevermore” off the new album; the rest were classics from Blessed Are the Sick, Covenant, and Domination.

Next episode, we’re back to the one-band format, so stay tuned!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

005 Sweetish Death Metal vol. 1

We’re devoting Episode 005 and every 5th episode hereafter to our favorite death metal, old and new, i.e. anything and everything that one would term as “sweetish.” This time, we’ve paired classic death metal bands with newer bands that were clearly influenced by them:

  • “I’m In Pain,” Obituary’s The End Complete (1992, Roadrunner)

Based in Brandon, Florida, a suburb of Tampa (Death Metal Capital of the World), Obituary is considered a pioneering band in the death metal of the late ’80s/early ’90s. The new band that we paired with Obituary ends this episode…

  • “Secret Face,” Death’s Human (1993, Relativity ) 
  • “Lapse,” Dreaming Dead’s Midnightmares (2012, self-released)
Dreaming Dead

Dreaming Dead pose and/or freak out.

Death is one of the most influential death metal bands, ever! Their fourth album, Human paved the way for technical metal of today. This track is from the 2011 remastered & repackaged re-release from Relapse Records. Dreaming Dead is a L.A. band featuring guitarist/vocalist Elizabeth Schall, whose gruff voice sounds a lot like Death’s Chuck Schuldiner! Midnightmares, their second album, features cover art by renowned metal album cover artists Travis Smith, who’s done covers scores of metal bands, from Anathema to Zimmers Hole.

  • “Twisted Mass of Burnt Decay,” Autopsy’s Mental Funeral (1991, Peaceville)
  • “The Origin of Disease,” Aborted’s Global Flatline (2011, Century Media)

Autopsy is another super-influential death metal band, though they chose slower tempos over extreme speed of other DM bands. This track was originally from their sophomore album, 1991’s Mental Funeral, though this remastered version is from the excellent 2001 compilation, Torn From the Grave, both on Peaceville Records. Recording since the late ’90s, Aborted is a Belgian band that conceptually sounds more like Carcass but with heavy Autopsy undertones. This album (their 9th!) features the guitarist and drummer from Abigail Williams and a bunch of guest vocalists, including the dudes from Misery Index, Rotten Sound, and The Black Dahlia Murder.

  • “Wasteland of Terror,” Asphyx’s The Rack (1991, Century Media) 
  • “The Unseen Hand,” Vore’s Gravehammer (2011, self-released)
Vore from Arkansas

Lookin’ all concrete and stuff: Vore

Pioneering death metal from the Netherlands, Asphyx has been crushing skulls since the early ’90s. This track features original vocalist Martin van Drunen, who quit in 1993 but has since returned to the band. Vore hail from Arkansas, and Gravehammer is their fourth self-released album of uncompromising death, released in December of last year. Vore just signed to German label AFM Records, who will re-release Gravehammer worldwide in July.

  • “Rapture,” Morbid Angel’s Covenant (1993, Giant) 
  • “The Art of Redemption,” Hate Eternal’s Phoenix Amongst the Ashes (2011, Metal Blade)

Along with Obituary and Death, Morbid Angel paved the way for the death metal of today. This track is taken from 1993’s Covenant, the biggest selling death metal album of its time. Covenant also marked the first time a death metal band was signed to a major label, Giant Records. Hate Eternal is helmed by former Morbid Angel guitarist Erik Rutan. He opened his own Mana Recording Studio in St. Pete and has produced a slew of metal bands, including both Cannibal Corpse and Cannabis Corpse (!), Six Feet Under, Goatwhore, Soilent Green, Denial Fiend, Malevolent Creation, et al.

  • “Reduced to Sludge,” Funerus’ Reduced to Sludge (2011, Ibex Moon)
Funerus band photo

Straight outta the bathtub drain: Funerus

Tri-state metallers Funerus plays Obituary-styled death, with fabulously guttural vocals from bassist Jill McAtee, wife of John McAtee, founding guitarist of Incantation and president of Ibex Moon Records. John also plays guitar in Funerus; these two win our award for Death Metal Couple of the Year!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

004 Fudge Tunnel

Fudge Tunnel, those saucy gents.

Dyed in the wool metal heads might argue that Nottingham, England’s Fudge Tunnel aren’t metal.  Singer/songster/producer/guitarist Alex Newport would agree, but leave your bullet belts at the door, because those tainted squirts at Metal Urges love every second of the sludgy dregs oozing from a Fudge Tunnel record.  A Fudge Tunnel record is murky with slabs of gooey guitar and snarling bass, riffy with sore-throat vocals.  What’s not to like!

With a lack of pretense and critical appeal, Fudge Tunnel not only spit at the metal label but transcend it.  Formed in 1989 by then teenagers, Fudge Tunnel saw themselves as a one-riff musical joke.  No longevity or career needed.  Funny thing is, here in 2012 we’re still laughing.

Previously banned cover art. Now an informative t shirt.

The music of Fudge Tunnel speaks to the ugly and imperfect, the abused and neglected.  You see, headmaster Newport leaves the mistakes in.  He wants the guitars turned way up, the vocals turned way down.  He doesn’t want the press conferences and philosophical lyric pondering.  He just wants you to wallow in the beautiful ugliness of real life.  So go ahead, mates, take your shoes off and let the fudge squish between your toes.  You might get ringworm, but you’ll love it.

Quintessential albums:  The Complicated Futility of Ignorance and Creep Diets.

Tagged , , ,

003 Best of 2011

End of Level Boss Eklectric

Episode 003 Best of 2011  is Chris’ year-end list as submitted to Exclaim! Magazine.

I love compiling annual lists because (1) it chronicles my own self-discovery of new metal, and (2) it turns on Spence to new bands so that we can share a true hive mentality for at least one episode! This year, my list seems to be even broader than before, mixing relatively disparate subgenres into one big, Jean de Crèvecœur-esque melting pot, to borrow one of my fave S. statements. It runs the gamut of death, doom, stoner, grind, goth, prog, and tech metal, and the countdown is…

#10: “A Thousand Martyrs” from Vallenfyre’s A Fragile King (Century Media). Paradise Lost guitarist Gregor Mackintosh steps up to the mic for the first time for a godly death/doom album with beaucoup PL guitar flourishes.

Junius

#9: “All Shall Float” from JuniusReports from the Threshold of Death (Prosthetic). Finally getting the exposure they deserve, Junius are prêt-à-porter for metal fans weaned on The Fixx. Would be a top play on Robert Smith’s iPod if there were any justice in the universe.

#8: “Eyes” from  Alaric’s Alaric (20 Buck Spin). A throwback death-rock band made of members of Bay Area grind/crust outfits? Hell yeah! Alaric answers the burning question of why modern metalheads should indeed worship Killing Joke.

#7: “Midnight Serenade” from Arch/MatheosSympathetic Resonance (Metal Blade). Fates Warning guitarist Jim Matheos reunites with original Fates vocalist John Arch for 54 minutes of pure prog-metal bliss. Loved Dream Theater back when “Hold Me Under” was on the radio? This is for you.

#6: “G.U.T.” from Believer’s Transhuman (Metal Blade). You may remember this Pennsylvania tech/death-metal band from their salad days on Roadrunner in the early ’90s. They’re back with suntans, two decades of musical maturity, and poised to teach you whippersnappers a lesson in brutality, tech-style. All this and day jobs, too.

#5: “In Death’s Path” from Deadfall’s New Light (Self-released). Deadfall are proponents of the relatively new djent subgenre, onomatopoeia for the start-stop guitar sound popularized by Meshuggah. Expert instrumental tech-metal that makes us wonder why they’re not signed to a label yet.

#4: “Of This Flesh (Novus Deus)” from Nader Sadek’s In the Flesh(Season of Mist). A conceptual artist-turned-musician, this Egyptian-born guitarist plays guttural death metal with Steve Tucker (Morbid Angel) on vocals and Flo Mounier (Cryptopsy) on drums. The best death metal album of the year, hands down.

This is the actual packaging of Graf Orlock’s Doombox EP. It contains a CD and a 10″. Take it out of the sleeve and insert tabs. You will amaze your friends!

#3: “There There” from Thou’s The Archer & the Owle (Robotic Empire). This unconventional Baton Rouge doom outfit combines death, black, sludge, and ambient metal into a heady brew of awesome. Irrefutably the most phenomenal doom band in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

#2: “1993; A Week Before Graduation” from Graf Orlock’s Doombox (Vitriol). Film school dropouts Graf Orlock—Gorlock to the converted—wed movie samples to punk/grind blasts, with all lyrics cribbed from movie scripts. The Doombox packaging is a full-sized pop-up ’80s boom box. Like Killwhitneydead covering Napalm Death…utterly titanic.

And the #1 song of the year: “Thee Absurd” from End of Level BossEklectric (Exile on Mainstream). Wrongfully lumped in the stoner genre, End of Level Boss are so much more. Their bad-ass band name veils rippling, EBow-ed chords and rock melody with enough hooks to land a school of trophy sport fish. Undeniably the years’ most creative metal album!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

002 Faith No More

For Episode 002, our first exploration of a single band, we choose seminal artists Faith No More.  Huge impact on the metal world, even today?  Check.  Volatile mix of metal styles and genre crashing?  Check.  Riffs?  Check.  Thunder and lightning?  Check.  In this episode of Metal Urges, listen as we put forth the argument that not only are Faith No More important to us, the band holds a high place in the Metal Pantheon.

Storied past and misty future, this band pumps out quirky, riff-laden voyages of texture and attitude.  Smart song structures and smarter lyrics, the music is thought provoking and demands repeated listening.  By the way:  if you don’t have a copy of Angel Dust. . . you suck.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

001 Metal Origins


Whom do you blame more? Araya or Mustaine?

To commemorate the maiden voyage of the Titanic, dear listeners, here is Episode 001 Metal Origins.  Like the juggernaut of the sea, this episode is huge, clocking in at around 90 minutes.  We recorded this way back in January, but now that our blog is finally up, here it is for your enjoyment.  Now let’s all keep a look out for icebergs.

In this episode, Chris and Spencer talk about some of the bands that sucked them down in the mire of the metal genre.  As you know, metal is full of extremes, like those blow-your-mind blast beats, the crushing riffs of down-tuned guitars, and the howls and growls of your favorite metal front-men (or women!).  It sounds like symphony to us, but to your dad, your spouse, or your dorm-room bunk-mate, it probably sounds more like cacophony.  You either love it or you hate it, but how did you get so into it!?  What’s your story?  When did you first feel it in your soul that Slayer really is the best thing you’ve ever heard?

Here’s a few pages of our own story here at Metal Urges.  Perhaps you will find some common ground with the Metal Urges dudes.  Leave a reply to tell us about your own experiences as you began to take the left hand path towards the unholiest of musical genres.  Or you could just tell Chris and Spencer how full of crapola they are.

Tagged , , , , ,