Between 2001 and 2004, Beaten Back to Pure released three albums of unrepentantly kickass Southern metal. With elements of thrash, death metal, classic heavy rock and more, they were a ferocious, drunk force to be reckoned with, and across ’01’s Southern Apocalypse, the next year’s The Last Refuge of the Sons of Bitches, and ’04’s The Burning South, they ripped through heavy and metallic convention and cast their own identity at a time before a new generation was about to discover what sonic weight sounded like. That timing means that, while they kicked ass at Emissions from the Monolith, they never quite got the recognition they deserved, as was the case with many acts of that same era. MySpace was a long time ago.
This past weekend, Beaten Back to Pure vocalist Ben Hogg (also Night Magic, Birds of Prey, ex-Hour of 13) put out word he’d be posting the band’s first new song since The Burning South was released on behalf of himself and guitarist/engineer Vince Burke (also Hail!Hornet), who also helmed the recording at his Sniper Studio. The track has the working title “Life Time Served,” which I’m told might change, and while it revives some of the core push and extremity that made Beaten Back to Pure so righteous during their initial run, that spacious guitar intro at the start and all those cleaner, more soulful vocals are hard to ignore. Nor do I want to, frankly. “Life Time Served” would seem to benefit from the work Burke and Hogg have done since their last outing together, and from where I sit, that only makes it stronger.
Check it out below, followed by an update on where the band is at now. When and if I hear of a new release, I’ll keep you posted.
Beaten Back to Pure, “Life Time Served”
First new song in over a decade. We got 9 of em. We’re calling it an album but maybe just 9 singles. Like Flo Rida.
Aight folks uploading this was a bitch. Vince is passing out like a lame. Anyway, here’s what I was speaking on earlier. There’s some intro but it’s all sick
Actually just occurred to me I hope y’all dare this shit.
That makes no sense^ we were drinking like broz do. I’m not sure what I was trying to say.
Beaten Back to Pure: Ben Hogg – crooner Vince Burke – drunk Richie Scharr – friend of Scott Travis Slam Jacobs – impoverished David Vaughn – new guy
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 16th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Virginian heavy rockers Freedom Hawk will head out on a tour of the Eastern Seaboard next month. Freedom Hawk head out in support of their 2015 offering, Into Your Mind (review here), their fourth album and second for Small Stone Records, and will kickoff with a D.C. gig alongside King Giant and Serpents of Secrecy. From there, they’ll be out with North Carolina’s Colossus, and this tour will also act as the inaugural run with new guitarist Brendan O’Neil, who recently joined on to make Freedom Hawk a reborn four-piece.
Have to wonder how that will change the dynamic of the band, particularly considering just how metal O’Neil‘s background seems to be, but even more, what that does for Into Your Mind, which was recorded as a trio, and how that material might change with the addition of a second guitar. Of course, Freedom Hawk were a four-piece previously, as heard on 2011’s Holding On (review here), so that would seem to make Into Your Mind even more of a standout in the band’s catalog. Interesting times.
They’re also dropping hints — as you can see below — for big announcements to come for 2017. I have a pretty good feeling what that might mean, but don’t want to hazard a guess and have it turn out wrong, which it almost invariably would. Needless to say, more to come when I hear it.
Till then, dig this:
Freedom Hawk Tour News
After being quite for a while after last years European tour, we have no worked in a new guitarist (Brendan O’Neil from the thrash band Pestilence Choir) to round us out as a 4 piece once again and have been busy writing new material. We have decided to take a pause from writing to get out on the road to do a very short tour run around the Northeast accompanied by our metal maniac mates in Colossus (Raleigh, NC). We have relatively exciting news (at least to us that is) coming up to announce… 2017 is looking bright.
As I understand it, the new Akris video is the beginning point for a storyline that will continue into their next clip and maybe even their next release, but from the artfully shot slow-motion closeups, the ’90s-style walking toward the camera while the camera backs up at pace — see also Mantar‘s recent “Cross the Cross” video (posted here) — and the focus on performance throughout, there’s plenty in “Brown” to represent what the Virginian trio are all about. They’ll issue the band’s second full-length, Your Mantis (with fabulous Skillit artwork), Sept. 23 on DGRecords, marking the long-play debut of Akris‘ current lineup of bassist/vocalist/founder Helena Goldberg, guitarist/vocalist Paul Cogle (also Black Blizzard) and drummer Tim Otis (also Admiral Browning) after the release of last year’s Fall EP (review here).
And for a standalone representation of what this version of Akris — they started as a duo and released their self-titled debut (review here) in 2013 — are all about, there’s little more one could ask of “Brown” than what the song delivers. Goldberg is front and center and her vocals melodic in a post-grunge tradition, always with a kind of riot grrl undercurrent, but the additional fuzz that Cogle‘s guitar brings to the mix lets her explore more fleshed out basslines, and of course Otis is a master of on-the-beat drumming, his tight style perfectly suited to Akris‘ noise rock tendencies, which come out more later in the track as Goldberg moves into and out of more vicious screams and leads the three-piece through d-beat rush that’s a surprise after the initial groove they lock in, but not at all out of place.
DGRecords has Your Mantis available for preorder now (linked below). The release show is set for Sept. 23 at Guido’s Speakeasy in Frederick, Maryland, and under the “Brown” video, you’ll find some comment from Goldberg about how the song and video tie together and where they might be headed from here.
Akris, “Brown” official video
Helena Goldberg on “Brown”:
This video for “Brown” is a preface to our next album and video (projected release 2017/2018). This multiple album-spanning storyline is based on a dream that I had in 2011, in which three brown-robed travelers journey in a timeless and seemingly empty world, united by a common purpose that will not be revealed until the end of our next album and video. Seen through the “eyes” of an unknown entity, the video offers an intimate glimpse into the projected origins of this group of travelers (the three members of Akris). The viewer finds the travelers coming to an old warehouse, discovering their robes and instruments, then packing them up and beginning our journey that will be continued next with the Sleeping Village album.
The Akris sophomore full-length, “Your Mantis” will be the first album released by DGRecords with the new lineup (Paul Cogle on guitar, Tim Otis on drums). The album has songs that listeners may recognize from past albums (“Brown,” “Profit,” “Row of Lights”), as well as brand new tracks such as “Visitor,” “Burn with Me,” and “Sturgeon.” The visual imagery and storyline that you will see in the video for “Brown” seems to have been as much a part of the song as the words and music, and constantly in my mind over the years. I can’t say enough good things about Three Goats Moving Pictures. Their commitment and passion was completely inspiring, and it has been extremely moving to me that they were so dedicated to creating visually these images I’ve had in my head for so long. They were incredibly professional (worked nonstop for about 10-12 hours the day of the shoot, one guy literally just grabbing a handful of bread and peanut butter at one point and continuing working, that was his “break”!). It’s also been amazing how supportive DGRecords has been in helping us to create this video. Your Mantis drops September 23rd, and we will be touring out to the Southwest Terror Fest in October in support of the release!
Akris on tour: Fri 09/23 Frederick MD – Guidos- CD release show Fri 10/14 Asheville NC – Odditorium Sat 10/15 Nashville TN – Springwater Sun 10/16 Little Rock – TBA Mon 10/17 Austin, TX – The Lost Well – w/ Order of the Owl and Destroyer of Light Wed 10/19 Rogue bar Scottsdale AZ w/ order of the owl Thurs 10/20 Tucson AZ – Southwest Terror Fest- Gary’s place Sat 10/22 TBA Mon 10/24 TBA Tues 10/25 Hattiesburg – The Tavern Wed 10/26 Birmingham – the Fireside
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
At this point, one almost receives an email with a subject announcing a Windhand tour and expects it to list a month-plus of dates. That’s kind of just how the Virginian outfit have operated for the last couple years — already they’ve put in considerable time supporting last fall’s Jack Endino-produced Grief’s Infernal Flower (review here) — but this time around it’s just a handful of gigs for December alongside Relapse Records labelmate extremists Ilsa that will take them as far north from Richmond as the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn before they head back, a quick run of pre-holiday dates.
Maybe they’re testing out new material ahead of 2017? Maybe they’re taking a victory lap for Grief’s Infernal Flower? Or maybe they just feel like getting out and doing a couple nights to wrap the year. Can hardly hold it against them either way.
The PR wire has details and a couple September shows as well:
WINDHAND Announce US Tour Dates With ILSA
Stoner/doom heavyweights WINDHAND have announced a new run of US tour dates this coming December along with labelmates and recent Relapse signees ILSA. The bands will be leveling Washington D.C., Boston, and New York beginning December 1; WINDHAND will also be playing select US dates in September. Check out a full itinerary below.
WINDHAND Live: Sep 06 Atlanta GA The Earl Sep 07 Nashville TN Exit/In Sep 15 Durham NC Motorco Music Hall
***All Dates With Ilsa*** Dec 01 Washington DC Black Cat Mainstage Dec 02 Boston MA Brighton Music Hall Dec 03 New York NY Mercury Lounge Dec 04 Brooklyn NY St Vitus
WINDHAND are still touring in support of their critically-acclaimed 2015 full-length Grief’s Infernal Flower, which can be streamed and purchased at the band’s Bandcamp page here.
D.C. death metal crew ILSA signed to Relapse last year and released a two-song split with labelmates COFFINS this past February. The split is available for streaming and purchase at this location.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 9th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I like a tour with an element of contrast, and to pair Virginia’s Cough with Massachusetts trio Elder strikes me as particularly brilliant. It’s a classic light and dark. Cough head overseas behind their new album, Still They Pray (review here), a massive slab of full-on bum-you-the-fuck-out doom that rolls its grooves like boulders. Elder? Still supporting 2015’s album of the year Lore (review here), they lead the charge with fleet-footed progressive heavy rock that even as it maintains its tonal crunch only seems to be becoming brighter in its tone.
So yeah, like I say: Some contrast. Awesome.
From the PR wire:
COUGH Announce EU Tour Dates With Elder
Fresh off the release of their highly-acclaimed new record Still They Pray, Richmond stoner/doom veterans COUGH have announced a European tour with contemporaries Elder set to begin this coming October. The band will be performing throughout Western Europe and the UK, including appearances at Up In Smoke Festival in Switzerland and Desertfest in Belgium. The band will also be performing select US dates before their departure – see a full list of dates below.
COUGH Live: Aug 12 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie Aug 13 Brooklyn, NY Union Pool
***European Tour*** Oct 01 Pratteln, CH Up In Smoke Festival @ Z7 Oct 02 Nürnberg, DE Kunstverein / Z – Bau Oct 03 Budapest, HU Dürer Kert Oct 04 Berlin, DE SO 36 Oct 06 Nantes, FR TBD Oct 07 Lyon, FR TBD Oct 10 London, UK Underworld Oct 11 Edinburgh, UK Bannermans Oct 12 Manchester, UK Rebellion Oct 13 Coventry, UK The Phönix Oct 14 Bristol, UK Exchange Oct 15 Antwerp, BE Desertfest Belgium @ Trix
Nov 12 Long Beach, CA Di Piazza’s – Midnite Communion Festival Nov 18 Indianapolis, IN 5th Quarter – Doomed and Stoned Festival
COUGH’s new album Still They Pray is out now via Relapse Records on CD/2xLP/Digital. Physical orders and bundle deals are available via Relapse.com here, and digital copies can be ordered through COUGH’s Bandcamp page at this location.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 2nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
What, you thought Inter Armaweren’t going to announce Fall 2016 tour plans? The Richmond genremashers rarely let a season go by without hitting the road for at least some measure, and whether they’re chipping away at the US region by region or heading abroad, the reliable thing is that they’re out there somewhere. To wit, right now they’re finishing a run alongside Withered, and next month, they’ll be out with Call of the Void as they continue to support their 2016 album, Paradise Gallows (review here), which of course came out on Relapse.
They’ve got a new video as well for “The Summer Drones” that follows the info below, sent along the PR wire:
INTER ARMA Announce US Tour Dates With Call of the Void
As their current US tour with Withered draws to a close, Richmond genre-benders INTER ARMA have announced a new run of US dates with Relapse labelmates Call of the Void. The tour will kick off this September 22 and will see both bands crushing cities throughout the Midwest, South, and East Coast. A full list of dates is available below.
The band’s music video for Paradise Gallows track “The Summer Drones” recently premiered and can be seen below.
Paradise Gallows is out now on CD/2xLP/Digital via Relapse Records. Physical orders, including limited vinyl colors and bundles, are available via Relapse.com at this location, and digital orders can be found at Bandcamp here.
INTER ARMA Live:
***All Dates With Withered*** Aug 2 Atlanta GA The Earl Aug 3 Asheville NC Mothlight
***All Dates With Call Of The Void*** Sep 22 Harrisonburg, VA Golden Pony Sep 23 Charlotte, NC Snug Harbor Sep 24 Savannah, GA The Jinx Sep 26 Tallahassee, FL Club Downunder Sep 27 Memphis, TN Hi-Tone Cafe Sep 28 Fayetteville, AR Ryleigh’s Sep 29 Little Rock, AR Vino’s Sep 30 Des Moines, IA Vaudeville Mews Oct 01 Iowa City, IA Gabe’s Oasis Oct 03 St Louis, MO Firebird Oct 04 Champaign, IL The Accord Oct 05 Grand Rapids, MI Pyramid Scheme Oct 06 Columbus, OH Ace of Cups Oct 07 Buffalo, NY Waiting Room Oct 08 Montreal, QC Casa Del Popolo Oct 09 Portland, ME Space Oct 10 New Haven, CT Cafe Nine
[Click play above to stream Mindkult’s Witch’s Oath EP in full. Out soon on Caligari Records.]
Enter Mindkult. So far as I can tell, Witch’s Oath is the debut offering from the Virginia-based outfit, a 25-minute four-songer with a heart geared toward analog-grain horrors and distorted riffs to accompany. The reason I say “so far as I can tell” is because there isn’t a lot to go on when it comes to Mindkult. In the tradition of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ beginnings — and the songs on Witch’s Oath work in that tradition as well — Mindkult‘s sole inhabitant, who goes by Fowst, has kept much a secret going into this first release, presumably to add a sense of mystique.
A search on Monticello Studios, where the EP was reportedly recorded, likewise yields little result, but I’d be surprised if by the time Fowst gets around to following up Witch’s Oath — which is being pressed to CD and tape by Caligari Records — there isn’t more public info available, since the one-man band tap into modern cultish swing and sound natural and full doing so, like a complete band. Which I suppose it is if it sounds that way. Whether or not Fowst recorded “King and Priest,” “Witch’s Oath,” “Serpent’s Nest” and the crawling closer “Chief of Devils” himself is my most pressing question, since being so utterly self-contained could play heavily into the trajectory of the project, but I take it as a sign of the positive impression these cuts leave that one might be tempted to think about the future in the first place. Mindkult, though I won’t say much for the moniker, could most definitely have a future.
To call the project insular seems fair, and while I obviously don’t know Fowst‘s background musically, the signs showed here of having such a clear aesthetic foundation for Mindkult would seem to hint toward past experience in one kind of band or another, though confirmation on that is nil. Could be that dude is 19, has never put anything out before and just happened to nail it — one scenario is as likely as the other. The important thing is he did nail it. Opting to actively depart from the blueprint of the aforementioned Uncle Acid in the vocals becomes a major factor in Witch’s Oath‘s success.
Whether it’s on the rolling opener and longest track (immediate points) “King and Priest” or the more uptempo and swinging title-track that follows, Fowst keeps a calm, morose pout, almost shoegazing, in his voice, which is forward in the chorus of the leadoff, but almost buried in “Witch’s Oath,” which seems to run in an attempt to catch up with its winding guitar line during the chorus, setting up a depth in the mix that doesn’t undercut the rawer garage doom vibe in the sound but makes the EP a richer listening experience overall. As side one of a tape, there’s little more one could ask of “King and Priest” or “Witch’s Oath” in establishing the groove and the palette with which Fowst will work on the complementary two tracks, and the leads at the end of “King and Priest” follow a bluesy but plotted course that speak to an underlying consciousness at work, buzzing into the shuffle of “Witch’s Oath” with fluidity bolstered by the haziness of the guitar and bass tones, though as ever, it’s the drums — or drum programming; could go either way — that ties everything here together.
Side two essentially reinforces what Mindkult had on offer in the first two songs, but builds on it as well, as “Serpent’s Nest” finds middle ground between “King and Priest” and “Witch’s Oath” in terms of tempo while blowing out the EP’s best riff and hitting on a balance of obscure vocals and bright-toned lead guitar that one can only hope will become a building block for Fowst going forward. “Serpent’s Nest” saunters to its finish and “Chief of Devils” chugs in soon after, not quite on the beat but not far off it. It’s a quick start to a slow march. Like the opener, the closer tops seven minutes and much of the time difference between it and the 4:44 “Serpent’s Nest” could likely be attributed to pacing. Not a complaint.
Fowst peppers in layers of leads amid the central forward rhythm and his downer vocals, taking a particularly engaging solo toward the end of the first half of the track before the guitar rings out in the second’s verses as the starting point of the EP’s last push. The tempo picks up a bit at the end — a change to ping ride is the marker — and cuts out suddenly like they ran out of tape, which of course may or may not be exactly what happened depending on the circumstances of the recording, though it sounds more purposeful than not. Whatever Fowst‘s real name, whoever produced the album, whatever bands he or they’ve worked with before, it’s the songwriting coming through most of all on Witch’s Oath and the sense of stylistic accomplishment that songwriting showcases. It’s early in Mindkult‘s tenure to make a guess as to directions the band might go, but this initial EP makes a compelling argument in favor of finding out.
Posted in Reviews on June 22nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Who’s ready for another round of 10 reviews in The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review? I know I am. We gotta hit 50 by Friday, and there’s still a lot — a lot — of ground to cover. Yesterday was all over the place style-wise and today has some of that going as well, but there’s a lot of quality in both, so hopefully you get to check some of it out. Today is the all important QR Hump Day, wherein we pass the halfway mark on our way to the total 50 reviews. If you’re wondering, it’s Lord Vicar who do the honors this time around at #25. Just kind of worked out that way, but I’ll take it. Down to business.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare
Probably fair to call Mirrors for Psychic Warfare an offshoot of Corrections House, since its two members – Scott Kelly (also Neurosis) and Sanford Parker (producer extraordinaire/also Buried at Sea) – are also in that group, but the feel of their Neurot Recordings self-titled debut is substantially different, rawer and at times harsher. Parker handles beats and electronics, creating at times a wash of abrasive noise as in the culmination of “CNN WTZ,” the centerpiece of the five tracks, and elsewhere providing an industrial backdrop for Kelly’s voice for a gothic feel, as on “A Thorn to See.” Unsurprisingly, nothing about Mirrors for Psychic Warfare makes for particularly easy listening – though opener “Oracles Hex” has some commonality with Kelly’s solo work and his voice is resonant as ever – but as they round out the album with “43,” the keys, synth and guitar find some common ground, which leaves distorted shouts from Kelly to do the work of taking listeners to task. We already knew these two worked well together, and the partnership once again bears fruit here.
The four-song Death Thy Lover EP (on Napalm) is the first new studio offering of original material from Swedish doom legends Candlemass since their 2012 album, Psalms for the Dead (review here), marked the end of the tenure of vocalist Robert Lowe, also of Solitude Aeturnus. His replacement is the person who nearly had the job in the first place, Mats Levén (formerly Therion), who has a kind of stateliness to his presence in opener “Death Thy Lover” but suits the plod of “Sleeping Giant” well. Of course, at the center of the band is bassist/songwriter Leif Edling, whose style is unmistakable in these tracks, whether it’s the late-Iommi-style riffing of “Sinister ‘n’ Sweet” or “Death Thy Lover”’s chugging its way toward the hook. Candlemass save the most grueling for last with “The Goose,” as guitarists Mats “Mappe” Björkman and Lars “Lasse” Johansson intertwine a chugging rhythm and extended soloing over dirge-march drums from Jan Lindh to give the short release a darkened instrumental finale.
Talk about scope. Oh, only a country’s entire cultural history is fair game for Skuggsjá, the brainchild of Norwegian artists Ivar Bjørnson (also Enslaved) and Einar Selvik (also Wardruna) that crosses the line between black metal and Norse traditionalism probably better than anyone has ever done it before. A Piece for Mind and Mirror is the studio incarnation of the work the two composers and a host of others did as commissioned for the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution, and though it’s broken into 10 movements for the album, it flows together as one orchestral entirety, the gurgle of Grutle Kjellson (Enslaved) recognizable in the eponymous track amid choral backing and a richly textured blend of traditional folk instruments and metallic thrust. The lyrics are Norwegian, but whether it’s the blowing horn of “Makta Og Vanæra (I All Tid)” or the lush melodies in the march of “Bøn Om Ending – Bøn Om Byrjing,” the sense of pride and the creative accomplishment of A Piece for Mind and Mirror ring through loud and clear.
Two years after making their self-titled debut, Baltimore heavy bluesfuzz trio Black Lung come swaggering back with the spacious vibes of See the Enemy (on Noisolution), which takes the establishing steps the first album laid out and builds on them fluidly and with a clear direction in mind. At eight tracks/45 minutes produced by J. Robbins, the album was clearly structured for vinyl, each half ending with a longer cut, the psych-jamming “Nerve” on side A, which resounds in an ending of scorching guitar from Adam Bufano atop the drums of Elias Schutzman (both of The Flying Eyes), and the closer “8MM,” on which Bufano, Schutzman, guitarist/vocalist Dave Cavalier and Robbins (who also contributes bass) roll out the record’s most massive groove and cap it with an impenetrable wall of noise. While the songs are striking in their cohesion and poise, there are moments where one wants Black Lung to really let loose, as after Trevor Shipley’s keyboard stretch in “Priestess,” but they have other ideas, feeding the title-track directly into “8MM” with no less a firm sense of control than shown earlier. All told, an excellent follow-up that deserves broader consideration among 2016’s finer offerings.
Offered through The Church Within Records as a paean to classic doom, Lord Vicar’s third LP, Gates of Flesh, nonetheless almost can’t help but put its own mark on the style. The Turku, Finland, outfit’s first album in five years, it finds guitarist Kimi Kärki (ex-Reverend Bizarre, Orne, E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr, etc.), vocalist Chritus (also Goatess, ex-Saint Vitus, Count Raven, etc.), and drummer Gareth Millsted (ex-Centurions Ghost) — who, along with Kärki, also contributed bass after the band parted ways with Jussi Myllykoski and prior to adding Sami Hynninen as a temporary replacement — bold enough to shift into minimalist spaciousness on “A Shadow of Myself,” and really, they’re not through opener “Birth of Wine” before Kärki executes a gorgeous dual-layered solo. Trace those roots back to Trouble if you must, but there’s no question to whom the lurch of centerpiece “Breaking the Circle” or the sorrowful 10-minute closer “Leper, Leper” belongs, and the same holds true for everything that follows, be it the quiet start of “A Woman out of Snow” or the swinging second half of “Accidents.” Lord Vicar enact the doom of ages and take complete ownership of the sound, thus only adding to the canon as they go.
Like the stench of rotting, Dakessian’s The Poisoned Chalice provokes a visceral and physical response. The long-in-the-making debut release from the Portland-based duo of vocalist Kenny Snarzyk (also Fister) and multi-instrumentalist Aaron D.C. Edge (Lumbar, Roareth, so many others) had its music recorded back in 2013, and the vocals were added earlier this year, throat-searing screams and growls that top the noisy, claustrophobically weighted tones from Edge’s guitar. The onslaught is unrelenting, both longer songs like “Demons” and “Ten Double Zero” and shorter cuts “Nothing Forever” and the sample-laced opener “Choose Hate” brim with aggressive misanthropy, the will against. Even the penultimate “Baerial,” which offers a glimmer of melody, continues to crush, and starting with a slow drum progression, closer “Cosmic Dissolution” barely tops two and a half minutes, but it brings thorough reassurance of the project’s destructive force before its final drone rounds out. One never knows with Edge if a given band will ever have a follow-up, but as ever, the quality is consistent. In this case, brutally so.
Actually, if you want to get technical about it, Gypsy Chief Goliath are citizens of Ontario, but you’d never know it from listening to their third album, Citizens of Nowhere, which if you had to pin a geographic locale on it might be more of a fit for New Orleans than Canada. The Pitch Black Records release sees the triple-guitar-plus-harmonica six-piece outfit dug deep in Southern metal grooves, marked out by the burl-bringing vocals of frontman/guitarist Al “The Yeti” Bones, formerly of Mister Bones, Serpents of Secrecy and The Mighty Nimbus and the chug-and-churn of cuts like “Black Samurai” and the shuffle of “We Died for This.” The title-track winds its central riff with thickened-up ‘70s boogie, while “Elephant in the Room” and “The Return” space out a bit more, and the closing Black Sabbath cover “Killing Yourself to Live” (a CD bonus track) plays it loyal structurally while dude’ing up the original like it was on hormone therapy.
Hard-touring Richmond genre-benders Inter Arma are due for a landmark release. Their 2014 single-song EP, The Cavern, was wildly well received and earned every bit of praise it got. Their follow-up to that is Paradise Gallows, their third album and second for Relapse behind 2013’s Sky Burial (track stream here). Is Paradise Gallows that landmark? Hell if I know. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Mikey Allred, who also guests on trombone, bass violin, organ and noise, Inter Arma’s third brings an expansive 70 minutes of bleak progressivism, conceptually and sonically broad enough to be considered brilliant and still weighted enough that the prevailing vibe is extremity in their blend of sludge, doom, black metal, post-metal, atmospherics, and a moody acoustic closer. The only real danger is that it might take listeners time to digest – because it’s a lot to take in, all those twists and turns in “Violent Constellations,” particularly after the plod of the title-track – but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find Inter Arma inhabiting any number of year-end lists for 2016. Once again, they earn it.
Virginian bruisers Helgamite manage to cover a deceptive amount of sonic ground on their second LP, Hypnagogia (on CD through Lost Apparitions with vinyl soon on Flesh Vessel), spending plenty of time in dense-toned sludge metal but using that as a foundation for a wider range of explorations, winding up in blastbeats by the time 13-minute side B finale “The Secret” comes around, but by then having torn through the aggro-thrash of “Origins,” lumbered through the mosher “Æstrosion” and topped off “Shaman’s Veil” with math-metal guitar fits melded to a saxophone arrangement. Growls from vocalist William Breeden and Jonah Butler’s drums tie it all together as guitarist Casey Firkin (also sax) and bassist Matthew Beahm pull off intermittently jazzy runs, but impressively, Helgamite never sound in danger of losing sight of the songs they’re serving, and Hypnogogia is stronger for its unwillingness to waste a second of its runtime, even in the aforementioned “The Secret” or its 10-minute side A counterpart, “Snowdrifter.”
Get it? Children of the Chron? I’ll admit it took me a second. While I was thinking about it, Allston, Massachusetts, duo Mollusk doled out sludge-punk-metal beatings via raw tones and shouts and a general sense of checked-out attitude, “Glacier” reminding of earliest, least-poppy Floor, but cuts like “Demon Queen” and “When You’re Gone” finding guitarist Hank Rose using a purposefully monotone vocal approach that works well over slower parts. Rose is joined in Mollusk by drummer Adam O’Day, and though I’ve already noted that the 11-track album is raw, their sound wants nothing for impact in the low end or any other end for that matter. Rather, the harsher aspects become part of the aesthetic throughout Children of the Chron and the band successfully navigates its own mire without getting lost in either its own “Torture Chamber” or “Zombie Apocalypse,” which like opener “Ride the #9,” is almost certainly a song about life in the Boston area.