December always sees the number of new releases considerably decreasing, and heavy hitters certainly dominated the release calendar in recent months. As the end of the year fast approaches, the LR staff’s focus will go toward the compiling of our Best of the Year lists, but we wanted to throw one more spotlight on the lesser-known releases that we believe to be worthy of your attention.
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ASTEROID – III
Fuzz, courtesy of Fuzzorama Records. Asteroid is stoner rock right out of the ‘70s with III, its third full-length. This is pure ‘70s fuzz somewhere in between Captain Beyond and Hawkwind. I’m not nearly as versed in all of the necessary discographies of the era to pick out all of the references, but connoisseurs will surely latch on to what Asteroid is doing. As for more causal, but appreciative, fans such as me, you’ll probably find much to like in the haze dripping riffs, simple percussion, mild keys, and melodic vocals. Fellow voyagers include bands such as Brown Acid, Purson (sort of), and Satan’s Satyrs, so that gives you a good idea as to what you’re in for.
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HOMEWRECKER – EXTINCTION BY DESIGN
From the wastelands of Ohio comes Homewrecker, hitting hard and fast with this four-song, thirteen-minute knockout punch. Both of their previous two full-lengths (2014’s Circle Of Death and Worms & Dirt) are blistering death-infected takes on metallic hardcore, groove-laden and carved up into two-minute-ish blasts. Extinction By Design takes that framework and refines it, sharpens it, tightens it at the same time that it lengthens the average run time, the whole of it pulled it together stronger and heavier. Thrashing riffs abound, atop some mile-wide mosh-worthy grooves from drummer Matt Izzi and bassist Steve Cray; vocalist Matt Barnum barks appropriately apocalyptic tales of caged existence and mass extinction. Recorded by Andy Nelson, and mastered by hardcore go-to guy Brad Boatwright, Extinction By Design sounds perfectly stout and strong. This type of metallic hardcore isn’t the most original, but when it’s done this well, the only real complaint is that it only lasts thirteen minutes.
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OLD CHAPEL – VISIONS FROM BEYOND
Russia’s Old Chapel plays it old-school. The band’s second full-length, Visions From Beyond, is classic-styled, ’90s-sounding death metal, spiced up with some ’80s-sounding leads, and the occasional nod to thrash. Old Chapel are no great shakes, technically speaking: the drumming is almost rudimentary, and the vocals are delivered in a fairly pedestrian death growl. Old Chapel, however has a knack for snappy, percussive and catchy riffs, which provide the album with abundant hooks. Furthermore, the band does a good job of giving each track its own feel via inventive arrangements that make good use of dynamic shifts in groove, tempo, and mood.
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ROTTEN UK – THAT IS NOT DEAD
Street punk, also known as UK82, is a hybrid, blue-collar form of punk that takes its inspiration from the dirty streets of England in the ’80s. The movement itself was so punk that it became anti-punk. It’s from that mold that Rotten UK rip their punk jams with underlying influences and inspiration drawn from early speed and thrash metal (and a touch of black), as well as punk rock staples like Oi!, two-step, and post-punk. Rotten UK is drawing as much from UK Subs and The Business as it does from Kaaos and The Exploited. Across That is Not Dead… these Rochester, New York natives weave British inspired anthems for the working class. Appropriate for the 2016 climate, That is Not Dead… is a shockingly well put-together release for a band promoting an intentionally subtle, yet nuanced, form of punk. Tracks such as “Their Dreams” pick up the pace and tear forward assaulting the listener with assertive, rhythmic vocals, while “Royal Blood” provides a more crusty take on Amebix-style punk. “Reaper Follows” can be described as a cross between Joy Division and black metal, revealing just how nuanced the songwriting can be. Rotten UK is a band meant to be sung loudly while swilling a can of union made beer.
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CROSS VAULT – MILES TO TAKE
In a year that saw a small but not insignificant revival of traditional forms of metal with bands like Sumerlands, Spiritus Mortis and Quicksand Dream, it’s a shame that all Cross Vault had to offer was a two-song EP. But if the idea is to maximize quality, Cross Vault has certainly achieved. Always a promising band, these German purveyors of traditional doom have never ascended the pinnacle of their worth. Often falling a tad short due to poor production, Miles To Take gives Cross Vault the chance to up its epic game and reach towards such hallowed acts as Primordial with two tracks of pristinely produced, vocally dominant, and compositionally sound doom metal that is sure to compete for spots atop year end EP lists. The vocal performance, particularly on the opening track “A Hand Moving Mountains”, is mournful, robust and expertly matched to the underlying rhythms hopefully exposing a look at things to come for Cross Vault. Miles To Take is essentially taking the reins away from Pallbearer and Sadhak and joining the aforementioned Spiritus Mortis in the elite towers of more traditional doom metal.
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PROFANAL – SUPREME FIRE
You’ll just have to trust me when I say I’ve already heard every Professor Anal joke in the book since first pimping this release back around October. I get it, the band has a…colorful name. I elbowed everything within arm’s reach with a sly grin and snarky wisecrack when I first saw it, too. Then I listened to Supreme Fire and eeeeeverything changed. Okay, I still snickered a bit, but holy hell do these rusty trombone instructors ever know what they’re doing when it comes to laying down some fresh pipe on the backroads of ye olde Swedeath highway. WINK WINK. Profanal is one of those bands that doesn’t necessarily do much new with a tried-and-true sound, but they do it with such vicious aplomb that one can’t help but hit repeat the very moment Supreme Fire‘s perfectly succinct 36 minutes winds up. Everything you need from a death metal platter of this style is present: buzzsaw riffs, tank-tread heaviness, plenty of punky-punch, and a beautiful pinch of melody to help fill out the edges. If this record were released back in ’91, it would’ve been a Century Media slam dunk, bet your sweet ass on that. And the supremely triumphant album artwork (done by Ivory Crux) fits the mood perfectly.