Heavy metal’s highway is stacked ten miles deep with bumper-to-bumper EPs, demos and diversely-inched short-players. In an effort to help our readers navigate the traffic, we offer an ongoing editorial designed to shine a light on a few of the more noteworthy candidates blipping the radar. Keep It Short, Stupid: The next installment in our continuing short-player cluster-bonk gang-bang.
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BLEEEEARRRRGH! A new bit of Necrot! Thirteen minutes of the true knuckle-dragging stuff that’s guaranteed to hammer a wicked Neanderthal slope into the ol’ forehead the moment the first notes kick into your earholes. No bells and whistles – just three dudes carving off big, beastly slabs of early crustified Bolt Thrower/Repulsion/Nausea rites with zero concern about stretching boundaries or draping themselves in hackneyed occult items procured from a sale over at _GruesomeGary666_’s ebay store.
Seriously, if you’re a fan of death metal and you can sit still through the mass of wriggling, scootin’ riffs and roaring drums that roll throughout The Abyss, you’re a deader man than this old dog. Opener “Scattered” tramples like an elephant that’s blown a gasket and finally busted his circus shackles. “Rebirth in Chaos” clomps and throttles like a Bugbear with a pissed bee up its ass (and tosses in a sweetly melodic lead – something new for these dudes.) And “The Abyss” closes the door with a putridly flailing blow that’s uglier than Shane MacGowan’s liver in a Huxtable sweater.
Mixed by Greg Wilkinson (Brainoil, ex-Laudanum, ex-Graves at Sea) at Earhammer Studios in lovely Oakland, CA, and soon to be available on cassette through the fine folks at Blood Divine. In the meantime, Skip to My Lou on over to their bandcamp and grab the mp3’s for the same amount you normally pay for that medium half decaf 3-pump mocha non-fat no-whip machiatto, you ballbag.
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Deathgrave, a new band from the brains of Brainoil, has a sense of humor. This isn’t Trophy Wife ha-ha-awww though. This demo ain’t safe. It provokes the kind of nervous chuckles released when potential physical harm is a bomb needing defusing. Indeed, DeathgraVe’s powerviolence meets death/grind freeway pileup is mischievous in its needling, sharpening its wit while wading in the don’t-give-a-shit gutter. “Brutal,” a minute and a half burner, reads like an Extra Hot Sauce squirt, detailing how to mix the meatiest drink this side of Hans and Franz’s juicer. But, while the lyrics stick to an ANb snicker, the songs are rippers. These mad batterers have engineered a turbo bulldozer, wrecking unsuspecting speakers with cheeky Spazz-isms, crusty seizures, and even a little A.C. jet engine flatulence. If you’re in the frame of mind to grind and favor the straight-line power of American muscle over the nimble, clinical calculus of the Euro stuff, this is it. Your copy-editor friend will despise your next mixtape track listing. That said, hey, maybe that’s the point.
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The cold, grisly Canadian invasion! Frozen wraiths surging atop a newly re-routed polar jet stream determined to glaciate the Lower 48. Polar vortex? Climate change? Pfff! The jig is up, science. We ain’t swallerin’ your mumbo jumbo no more. It’s obviously the Canadians. And not those kindly ones who fancy accompanying outlaws like Gaahl on casual strolls up snowy mountainsides, either. I’m talking about the grim dogs. The glowering, ornery soreheads who pound ice into their veins like a Corey Haim Werewampa. Bands like Akitsa, Frozen Shadows, Sombres Forêts and Gris, with an obvious addition of Forteresse, Chasse-Galerie, Monarque and Csejthe found on this soon-to-be-dropped double gatefold 7″ via Sepulchral Productions. These are the bands responsible for knifing Québecois black metal into the guts of the world population. A most fitting use of the term hoard! Finally! Piles of raw and intense miscreants bent on freezing our squishy Amurican giblets to stone before too many of us get the bright idea to wander north for “that goooood health care.”
NO. STAY OUT. OUT OF QUEBEC. You can visit, but see the sights, soak up the heritage, drink the booze, enjoy the nightlife, then GTFO. And yeah, pick up one of these 7″s while you’re there, because Sepulchral Productions puts the gravy on the poutine in terms of releasing exemplary Québecois black metal. The four bands showcased here represent a handful of the area’s top-tier razor riffers, and each tune finds the bands at the top of their game. Those already familiar with Forteresse will be very pleased to hear the same epic, melodically tremolo-picked triumphantness they’ve been firing across the bow for years, and the remaining fare achieves a similar high-water mark. Monarque’s offering sacrifices a bit of the melodic touch in favor of hammering eeeevil (that’s surprisingly heavy), and a special tip o’ the cap is due to Csejthe for absolutely crushing it with “Murmures Nocturnes” – a masterful peek at just how to properly layer melodic black metal with epic keyboard atmospherics.
No samples. Only snow is real.
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Southern State are liars. Not only does their Bandcamp page boast a “WIZARD ROCK” tagline—implying that the band is some kind of proto-fuzz gimmick act (it ain’t)—but their own name belies their status as a trio of sad white guys from Ohio making Sad White Guy Music. This surprisingly savory self-titled EP has a doomy lurch, indeed, so that wizard hat might fit with a little finagling. But, in truth, they’re closer kin to Kowloon Walled City…on a Pinkerton / Hum kick. It’s moody, emotive stuff, but packed with enough roiling swag (not to mention fat-ass tones) to keep things balanced. Dishonesty aside, these guys are on the cusp of doing something really, really special.
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Calgary, Alberta’s Million Dollar Fix have recorded a forty-two minute EP consisting of four songs that either flirt with or smash through the ten-minute barrier. They also play a style of barroom rock suited for folks with an affinity for AC/DC or Thin Lizzy cover bands. On paper, Psychedelephant looks like the potential frontrunner for most pointless EP to miss the point of an EP entirely in 2014.
Crumble that paper into a tiny basketball and rocket it across the office for two points. Psychedelephant is big, dumb fun, which is a nice change of pace from the self-serious and depressing fare Q1 has been heaping upon yours truly. “Never Fight Her Flow” is a stomp-along hootenanny of a track with some su-poibly catchy riffs lifted right out of the ‘how to play the most basic versions of your favorite Jailbreak songs’ book. It also stops inches away from ten minutes, but you won’t notice. That’s the neat thing Million Dollar Fix pull off here. These are long-ass songs, and yet they only feel like they’re a few minutes apiece. Closer “Kill the Banker” could touch twelve minutes if it stretched its legs just right, but it plays like three shorter songs mashed together.
Of course, it stands to reason that three shorter songs might flow a little better. It’s all well and good that four tracks are exceptionally long, but some tighter, punchier, shorter bangers are going to be necessary for an impending full-length to not suffer the fate of those saltines that have been sitting in the back of your Lazy Susan since 2008. For the time being, though, Psychedelephant is the antithesis of 2014 thus far, and a more than decent ‘beers with the buds’ record.
No samples of the new material yet, but get a taste from their 2012 debut through bandcamp: Million Dollar Fix.
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The recent split between Ukraine’s Drudkh and the UK’s Winterfylleth finds the two black metal acts at very different phases of their respective careers. The former finds itself a now largely irrelevant former legend, even if some of their recent output still finds quality, while the latter feels like a perpetual up-and-comer, flashing signs of brilliance over three quality albums, but always seeming capable of more.
What does this have to do with a release full of covers? To start, it’s easy to place the Drudkh part – titled Thousands of Moons Ago – as their best work since Microcosmos, even topping solid under-the-radar EP Slavonic Chronicles. (Both releases make a good argument for Drudkh sticking with covers for a while.) The band sounds impassioned, and their choice of material – tracks by Hefeystos, Unclean, and Sacrilegium – is the kind of black metal they can thrive on while still coming across as covers.
But despite Drudkh sounding rejuvenated, Winterfylleth might just win the split with a single song. Curiously enough, they are presenting a take on “The Gates,” by Drudkh’s sister band Hate Forest. The chilling, blast-ridden track is a perfect fit for Winterfylleth’s skills, and comes with just enough stirring melancholy to create that sense of epic sorrow.
Winning or losing be damned, this split is a great little romp, and a no-brainer for fans of either act.
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