I’ve Listened to These Recently…

…whilst in a clear haze of cutting down smoking to quit and thanking the nearly unbearable heat for making it slightly easier.


Watain

Lawless Darkness

As hinted at in the last post (sorry for the long delay) I knew this record was going to be something fantastic. After all, a legacy that includes black metal classics like Sworn to the Dark and the overlooked Casus Luciferi, and also some of the most memorable interviews, cannot begin to disappoint now. According to the Swedish evil dudes themselves, the world has only seen a fraction of what black metal is capable of and they are here to show us the rest. (I’ve surmised that statement being an aural representation of the human brain…but way cooler.)

Now that Lawless Darkness is finally out let me be the 516th music writer to say that it holds up on the expectations set by the critics and fans alike, however I am not sure about displaying that much of what black metal is capable of.

Don’t get me wrong…there is no other black metal band out there that can touch their songwriting abilities, iron-clad image of pure evil, and ability to infuse so much listenability and groove into one platter. Lawless… exists on a plane yet unseen by other acts. (I know the Norwegian purists will not like that statement, but you have been beat by your enemy.)

“Malfeitor” opens up with a slow, lurching, melancholy line of a seemingly old man band of black metal has-beens. Only for a second. Before one is ready, or prepared, vocalist E. belts out the curdling howl and it is full speed ahead. Seat belts will not protect one from this onslaught. The comfort of such quality music reminds one of being able to fly through the air on a pillow…the comfort is there but to hang on you have to miss some of the beauty below you because of the imminent danger.

The following track, “Reaping Death”, was covered in the last column, so there is no reason to again say that this is one of the best songs I have ever heard in my life. This includes any genre. I know it is a stretch, but having listened (really listened) hundreds of times already, I can put the utmost confidence in this being a timeless metal classic.

A little later, “Wolve’s Curse” slowly crawls out of the muck with gentle crickets and distant howling. (To watch my dog’s head cock at the sounds of approaching relatives is quite cute, not the intended result, I am sure.) Again, the explosion of the full power of Watain is heard within seconds. The combination of melodic riffs with the disonant stops displays their talent, courage, and prowess to be able to pull something of this magnitude off with a beauty and eye for detail that goes far beyond simple showmanship and into something deeper, something that they may need to do to continue to live and breathe in this mortal world.

As the album progresses, each song, from the title track to “Total Funeral” to “Kiss of Death”, all hold very wonderful gems in execution and classic-status, but to go from song to song is something that should be reserved for an in-depth study of the album as a whole (are you listening, 33 1/3?). The last notable thing is the final track, the fourteen minute, un-Watain-like epic “Waters of Ain”. Not un-Watain-like in sound, mind you, but the sheer length and breadth is something new to them. They’ve had epics (really, the strength of each song makes each one epic-prone but their restraint and taste in keeping it short-ish only adds to their mystique in a way…think about it…) but nothing of this sort. Movements and time changes abound, as they should with a piece so large, but it is the sense of action and need that really makes this song special. Not once does it seem to be lugubrious, insomuch as a feeling of impatience for it to end, but moreso like that it could be released as an EP all on its own. Melody and a distinct sound all its own, “Waters of Ain” could be the “One” for a new generation or a new “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the metal-minded. As it fades, it is already missed and a repeat listen is desired, much like one thirsts for after a fantastic three minute powerhouse. How they pulled it off with this behemoth is unclear to me. Maybe there is an evil force that drives this band to heights unknown to the rest of us.

I am confident in saying that this is the best metal record released not only this year, but in the last three. Where Sworn to the Dark left off is, yes, where this one picked up, not that they are connected in any way but only in the sense that Watain have once again proved that they are untouchable and will continue to be until whatever is in the cosmos, if anything, takes them back from whence they came.

Amen.

Cathedral

The Guessing Game

British doom weirdos Cathedral again show up on our doorsteps to again perplex our capacity for what a loosey-goosey genre like this is capable of. The slow tempo, open timbre, and patience really allow for some experimentation. Trust this twenty year old powerhouse to do just that.

Hailing from London and led by the infamous Lee Dorrion (Napalm Death, Teeth of the Lions Rule the Divine), their roots are all over the place making it possible to further stretch their fist-ended limbs and make a truly interesting record. The first notable track, “Casket Chasers”, reminds the listener of long-lost Acid Bath in a few instances. The pure rock groove and vocal effects may startle some into thinking that it will go into suck territory at any moment. Luckily, that moment doesn’t happen until way later in the album. This, pure and simple, is windows-down, beer can between the legs while driving rock. Quality overcomes the potential boredom of such a genre so without fear in head all can have fun.

“Painting in the Dark” continues this feeling with a wonderful high-hat led ride into the sun making one wish they were driving a funny car instead of what has been subjected to you. Surely the accelerator will drop and corners over sped through; listening to this may also raise the risk of pregnancy as care flies out the window and only fire is felt in the belly as the two tango in completely inappropriate places.

As the album continues, though, the leads and lengths of songs become more tedious and seemingly unneeded. Movement and space fall into habit and the mind begins to wander towards what to put on next, something more exciting, perhaps? Yes, please.

Perfect for a bonfire or a nap, The Guessing Game is well worth the listen and the purchase in its overall quality but don’t expect it to change any of your premonitions about what is possible as far as pushing any sort of letter holder.

Coffinworm

When All Became None

My love for Indiana metal is well known as it is my homeland. Many of the members of Coffinworm share duties in the lengthy-named and incredible Black Arrows of Filth and Impurity (which I gushed about here). A fellow Hoosier transplant clued me in on these dudes and unfortunately I couldn’t find the record for a while and had to work through their set at this year’s SXSW. Needless to say I was beside myself upon finally stumbling upon When All Became None.

Hailing from Indianapolis/Bloomington, and warming my heart to see a few dudes that I haven’t spoken with in a very long time, this is one of the best examples (along with Racebannon, Gates of Slumber, and the aforementioned Black Arrows…)of what kind of shit goes down in the Indiana basements, much to others’ surprise. Quality rage, pure violence, and a taste for the macabre is welcome in any metal scene, I am aware, but it is this Hoosier scene that I so miss. There may not be quanity, but so help me…you know where that thought is going.

“Blood Born Doom” opens this record up with the full frontal violence that would be expected from such a group of seasoned ruffians. It isn’t until the second cut, “Start Saving for Your Funeral”, that the listener realizes the sheer brutality of When All Became None. The midtempo punch sets the speakers to work and the fists to clench in unison and purpose.

This is not death metal, grindcore, or black metal, but rather a beautiful marriage of the three into something that the forefathers called Metal. Simple. Through this simplicity the message and feeling gets across best and has no need for any fancy production tricks or stage antics. Instead of simply saying it, Coffinworm merely exudes the fact that they will break bones and tear limbs if need be, but your fear will keep you safe. Just stand and revel in the shear beauty of healthy hatred.

Nachtmystium

Black Meddle Vol. 2: Addicts

Nachtmystium’s brand of psychedelic black metal took the smart music lovers by storm a few years ago with Black Meddle Vol. 1: Assassins, and rightfully so. It was a brilliant mixture of brutality, melody, and imaginative quirks that made it both singular and far-reaching. The anticipation for …Vol.2… was obvious and deserved; sharing the road with giants like Watain (see above) only seasoned them perfectly to do god-knows-what. And what have we here?

“High on Hate” does not open the record but is the first real song…and it sounds nearly identical to the last album’s cornerstone, “Ghosts of Grace”, which can be both seen as a good and bad thing. They’ve had time to stretch out a little more but the argument of, “If it ain’t broken…” also rings true. One has to remember, though, this is very, very early in the record.

And then it continues. And then it opens up. And then the eyes gape. “Nightfall”, musically, could be included in many genres. The vocals and subject matter make it pure metal, though I am still surprised at the lack of backlash from the (goddamn) purists complaining about the prevalent tambourine and mid-tempoed, slick drum sound. As for myself, I think it is a fantastic departure into a known territory for many, but not a metal band. Sure, Satyricon are simple rock now, but a band so close to their roots in the underground have to really work hard to make something like this. While being both catchy and listenable, the astounding thing is that with lyrics like, “I am the wizard/I live in hell you know/you never see me/I exist below,” it is undeniably Nachtmystium.

Following is the even more surprising “No Funeral”. With the a gentle keyboard line sitting comfortably in front of the entire band, this is what I think a friend of mine was referring to when he said, “…it sounds like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but not in a bad way.” Truly surprising and, dare I say, danceable. Again, hearing this makes me wonder if the purists gave up on them a long time ago as the backlash has not been read by me.

As one progresses through …Vol. 2… it is inevitable to notice the constant midtempo suckering up to the larger audience but where the magic truly lies is underneath in its quirks and blips and swirls. It is here that the psychedelic comes in and really fills it out. The blast beat and  proclamation that, in fact, “…demons are taking control…,” (“Blood Trance Fusion”) reminds us that, yes, they are still metal through and though.

If nothing else, Nachtmystium can be celebrated for being ballsy and far-reaching with their ability to be both complete black metal without sounding like any other black metal band out there. Whether or not it will be timeless is something else entirely and something that only time itself can prove. What is known, however, is that they are here now and should be celebrated for that fact alone.

Maim

From the Womb to the Tomb

After all this artsy hubbub, I felt that a straight-forward death metal record was in store. Enter Sweden’s Maim and their debut album From the Womb to the Tomb.

Reminiscent of classic Pestilence and Repulsion, there is a certain rebellious wave of modern day Swedish thrash that is completely anti-Gothenburg sound in its lack of melodic mid-90s In Flames/At the Gates worship.

This is death metal in the vein of Cannibal Corpse (though a little slower in execution), early Sepultura, or the modern day Death Breath (featuring ex-Pestilence). Full on brutal and no-holds-barred blast beats, filthy riffs, and messy, semi-lo-fi production. Classic, as I stated before, and fresh on the ears after hearing so many polished bands. This takes me back to the days of tapes, tape-trading, and real zines. And why I got into death metal in the first place.

There is no reason to explain this album further as it is extremely straight-forward, well-executed, and probably forgotten in five years because of just that. Unfortunately. Still a good addition to any metal collection; metal friends will be excited to see it and have no clue as to what it is. You could even lie and say it was from ’91 and they think you are the coolest person in the world. And if they do you need to find new friends because that means that they are really shallow.

BONUS VIDEO:

Here is one kid’s thoughts on metal. As Metal Sucks (the re-poster that I found it at) said, I hope he is ready for a long time of being pummeled on the playground and leaving college with his virginity intact.

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