Keep It Short, Stupid – EP Round-Up: January 2014

Heavy metal’s highway is stacked ten miles deep with bumper-to-bumper EPs. 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 on the radar. Keep It Short, Stupid: The next installment in our continuing EP cluster-bonk gang-bang.

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Too many people slept on the 2011 full-length debut from San Francisco’s Hazzard’s Cure – a very enthusiastic hodgepodge of knotty thrash, sludge, stoner and the kitchen sink that coulda-shoulda-woulda landed the band on a Hell of a lot more radars if the Earth was actually a fair place to inhabit. Alas, these dirtballs remain mostly unheralded, so the respective members supplement extra time not spent crapping together on a fancy tour bus by laboring in a pile of other notable Bay Area outfits such as Walken, OWL, and Bädr Vogu.

Well, now any previous “sorry, never heard of ’em” transgressions can thankfully be washed away by re-dedicating some worthy time to the freshly dropped Hazzard’s EP, The Ugly – 17 minutes of very enthusiastic knotty thrash that dismisses virtually all of the previous effort’s sludge in favor of a more blackened blister that’s further bolstered by a guest vocal appearance (background on “Terminal Frost” and lead on “The Body Amorphous”) from howler Laurie Shanaman of sadly defunct SF legends, Ludicra.

As evidenced by the bulk of the above tune, The Ugly is primarily concerned with the task of hacking faces to ribbons, but there are a couple moments where the band allows their softer, prettier side to emerge – like a tiny glimpse of a rainbow in a spill of dirty oil. All-in-all, The Ugly represents another glimpse into a talented Bay Area band that somehow manages to survive and thrive, despite getting paid mostly in cheap beer and dusty schwag. Don’t let this one pass by unnoticed. [Michael Wuensch]

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So, this is what new thrash is supposed to sound like. Got it. And, you’ll get it too, plus some new black and blues.

Finland’s Nuclear Omnicide gets M.A.D. on their hot-on-the-heels EP follow-up to ’13’s The Presence of Evil. Evolution: the evil has arrived. No more horripilation, evil is now gnawing off your gosh darn arm. Though, to really drive the point home, let’s call this evil by name: a starving-to-slay-you Dark Angel. Yeah. Bringers of Disease is a whole lot of Darkness Descends, all of the thrills which boggled ’86 brains even in such a mind-boggling year of Michelin three star thrash. However, DD is just the bird. NO pulls ingredients from across the land. For instance, feel free to season to taste with Nuclear Assault crystals and raucous gang shouts from Meshuggah‘s men back when they were a yiddish word for “Metallica.” Think you know that flavor?

Well, no, no you don’t.

Nuclear Omnicide’s thrash might be gassed with the past, but this mustang can make its own power. These pistons, dude: Ace instrument wrangling, charismatic larynx sanding, and songwriting like a red-assed, SIR MAY I HAVE ANOTHER spanking. Damn. And, truly, that’s what sets them apart. This ain’t rethrash that plays like a portrayed-by-actors documentary reading. It’s alive. ALIVE! It’s as real as your last meal. It’s rethrash only if “re” stands for ridiculous. Heck yes. [Ian Chainey]

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By the seven eyes of Ningauble, The Lamp of Thoth have returned!

Okay, you may not have noticed the vacancy too much if you follow vocalist/bassist The Overtly Melancholic Lord Strange (also known as Simon Iff?) and drummer Lady Pentagram’s similarly hammered goods spawned via Arkham Witch – an offshoot originally forged with the purpose of infusing more of the Traditional/NWOBHM side of metal into their Vitus-doom bearing – but yes, The Lamp has indeed rekindled. Missing (at least in terms of their stated M-A roster) is guitarist Randolf Tiberius Reaper, who now hammers strings for epic wallopers Solstice (UK), but the material offered here is every bit as Lampy, screwy and HEFTY as ever, regardless of who’s individually responsible for delivering the 17+ minutes of riffs. Evidence:

That particular tune – lamenting the villainy of endlessly toiling away in the ruthless gears of the daily grind – is clearly the doomiest of the bunch, with the rest of the fare showcasing the snappier, bouncier stance shared with their Lovecraftian cousin. Too similar? Too collateral? The Lamp of Witch? Arkham Thoth? Who the Hell cares, as long as the fun keeps rolling. Tales of witches put to flames, barbaric gods of the rack, and another re-retelling of the band’s signature “tits to the church” anthem round out the latest installment. We love the lamp. [Michael Wuensch]

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The number of solid-if-unspectacular, tried-and-true-as-career-goal trad metal bands is approaching uncountable levels these days, so standing out is a rough proposition. For many of them, the solution is to introduce themselves via a single or EP. Easier to focus on your few unique aspects over just two tracks, after all. Tackle that full length thing later. New Jersey’s Midnite Hellion is going that route, having already released an EP in 2012 and now using this quick Hour of the Wolf single as a way to introduce new vocalist Pamela Berlinghof.

This was a smart strategy, because even those unfamiliar with the band’s first EP would have no problem identifying Berlinghof as Midnite Hellion’s greatest asset. Her classic metal singing – touches of vibrato, occasional wails, warm delivery – comes in an alto range, and carries the bulk of the personality and energy within these two songs. While solid, the rest of the band would do well to follow her lead in terms of sounding inspired. In particular, much of the riff work comes across as just there. Never close to bad, but little more than a backdrop for the vocals. However, when everything does often all come together, such as during the verses of b-side “The Morrigan,” the results can be quite nice. Difficult to tell if Midnite Hellion can make this work over a full length, but this is a fun little release in spite of its lack of blazing energy. [Zach Duvall]

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These Britons dropped a monster of an EP last November – Stillborn Nation, a crusty five-song blast of old-school grinding done expertly. Not even two months later, they’re back again with a new bassist and with The Persecuting Society, six more songs of blistering chaos that rips from start to finish.

Compared to that earlier effort, The Persecuting Society is noticeably more raw in terms of production, though that’s not a bad thing. Stillborn Nation was pummeling and punchy, whereas Society sports more live-sounding drums and a generally less polished approach, particularly in the guitars. Still, those rougher tones only help augment the crust factor in the band’s controlled violence, and here as in all grindcore, it’s that fury that’s foremost. Like Stillborn before it, Society delivers its six tracks with all the explosive rage anyone could ask for.

Tracks like “Dogma” and “Pre-Emptive Bombardment” appear as if lifted directly from Napalm Death’s seminal From Enslavement To Obliteration, blasting full-tilt while “Will To Submission” rides its dissonant riff to a chugging mid-tempo glory. With The Persecuting Society, Human Cull has now released two back-to-back winners in as many months, so it’s safe to say this trio is one to keep eyes upon. And for now, at least, The Perscuting Society is available as a “name your price” download on the label’s Bandcamp site – drop by, download, toss ‘em a few bucks if you can, and grind yourself senseless… [Andrew Edmunds]

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Hailing from Leeds, UK, Cognizance plays tech-death. Normally, that sentence would be where yours truly stops reading and forgets the band even exists. Tech-death, almost as if by rule of the genre itself, tends to meander and impose like a four year old that just learned how to somersault in the front yard. ‘Look at me, guys! I’m doing this so well! Guys, I’m doing it again! Look! Guys! …guys?’ We get it, you’re fucking good at your instruments. Try not boring us to tears.

Cognizance has found a bit of a sweet spot, however, in that they flirt with the line of pretension of a virtuoso nature. Every time they come close to crossing it, however, the primitive side of things kicks in, making for more than decent trek through well-worn territory. “Assemblage of Ancient Authority”, first of the two tracks on this self-titled demo, doesn’t follow a structure so much as it weaves together tiny bits of latter-day Suffocation, mid-period Dying Fetus, and the not-noodly parts of Necrophagist into a warmly satisfying blanket of listenable death metal.

And to be fair, the second song, “Deep Geological Disposal” does the exact same thing, but I’m a sucker for Henry Pryce’s cadence. I love death metal vocals that try to cram way too many fucking syllables into lines instead of just using shorter words. And that is just about every line on these two tracks, so count me in. It’s hard to say whether a sampling of two morsels would translate well into a full course, as this style is incredibly difficult to pull off convincingly for more than a few tracks at a time (anyone who has seen a tech-death band bore themselves on stage can attest to this), but for now, dig in. These bites are tasty enough to whet the appetite for at least seconds. [Chris Redar]

Posted by Last Rites


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