Much like Major League Baseball attempting to deal with the long embedded problem of steroids, the “metal scene” needs to finally figure out a way to deal with the Nazi problem. As Mike Piazza’s jersey hangs in the Hall of Fame, the 1,390th overall pick in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft, surrounded with controversy. While no Bonds-like evidence is available proving that Mike Piazza was on “the juice,” circumstantial evidence is nearly insurmountable. The same can be said for the soon-to-be-inducted Mr. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. Both catchers, unquestionably fantastic with regards to their offensive prowess, were more likely than not users of substances that have kept the likes of Barry Bonds (arguably the greatest baseball player of all time) and Mark McGwire (current bench coach for the San Diego Padres) out of the hallowed hall in Cooperstown, NY. It’s because of this dichotomy that Major League Baseball needs to figure out where to draw the line.
If it is merely hard evidence that will keep someone out of the hall, then we are denying future fans of some of the greatest players in history. Sure, steroids may have assisted in their power, or helped them enhance the longevity of their career, but ultimately, steroids cannot make up for a lack of talent. Rather, they can only enhance the already cultivated natural talent of an athlete, or potentially aid in their recovery from injuries. Which, it’s important to point out, that almost all regular humans can be prescribed HGH as a way to recover from tears, strains, pulls and itises yet, we deny them from those who might potentially need them the most. Doesn’t this make us somewhat hypocritical in what we expect from people who play one 162 grueling games a year?
Now, metal is not like baseball. While I am most definitely arguing that Major League Baseball accept that steroids and performance enhancing drugs and other substances will forever be part of the game and therefore the league should step back and take a look at how they want to judge players for their indiscretions, I am not arguing that metal do the same. What I am saying is that, perhaps it’s time to look at metal as art. Perhaps separate the finished product from the mentality, or past incidents, of those who made it. We might enjoy some of the produced art while disliking the human being or beings that made it. And we might not enjoy art produced by some of the most caring, wonderful and intelligent people of all time. So, how can we sit here and judge people and bands based on their political leanings? Do we shut down Wagner operas? Do we refuse to allow Hugo Boss (if we can afford it) to have a successful company?
Sure, certain bands are going to be controversial and even I will likely avoid them if they have words like “fuhrer” in the title. Of course a label named “Werwolf” will give me cringe-inducing flashbacks to Hitler’s underground bunker (where he received Eukodol injections and Cocaine swabs). These are simply not things to be celebrated. But the art produced, even f produced by hateful people, may still have musical merit. It’s a painful practice to separate the art from the artist but, if we deny quality art, or the more disgusting truths of the world, we are denying ourselves, and future generations, the ability to decide on the merits of the art. Maybe it’s time to let people be and let artists alone to create whatever they will. Once it’s released, and out of their hands, then it’s fair consumption to be judged on its face.
Ignoring, hiding or otherwise covering up history will not help us move forward as a culture and get these darknesses out of our culture. Rather, they will continue to exist while we move forward like a racehorse fitted with blinders. Just because we refuse to acknowledge that something is there doesn’t mean it will go away. But, enough of that.
In this edition of Fast Rites we have releases from Lubricant, Weeping Sores, Basement Torture Killings, Temptation Wings and Power Trip.
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WEEPING SORES – WEEPING SORES
Weeping Sores is more than a just brutal name, it’s the (mostly) solo project of Doug Moore, vocalist of Brooklyn powerhouse Pyrrhon. Moore is joined by Pyrrhon bandmate Stephen Schwegler on drums and new Hell violinist Gina Hendrika Eygenhuysen. Drawing as much from bands like The Dirty Three and movie soundtracks as much as classic funeral doom acts and more standard doom acts, Weeping Sores brings a melodic sensibility combined with Evoken levels of brutal vocals to their self-titled debut. Throughout their somber, near mournful debut, the rhythms bob like a 20lb test line awaiting a strike playing against the uncharacteristically baritone and deep, guttural vocals of Doug Moore. All in all, EP or LP, this is an experience that should never get lost in the mix of an upcoming Pyrrhonrelease. Full of melancholy and melody, this doom/death metal debut flat out demands attention.
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TEMPTATION’S WINGS – SKULTHOR EBONBLADE
Skulthor Ebonblade is the full-length debut from Asheville, North Carolina outfit Temptation’s Wings. In the tradition of Bathory’s Blood on Ice, Skulthor Ebonblade is a sword and sorcery concept album. I’m a bit fuzzy on the details of the story without a lyric sheet, but it’s safe to say that swords are swung, blood is shed and many a foe is vanquished. Much like Grand Magus, Temptation’s Wings’ sound is rooted in doom, but ventures into traditional metal territory. So, while there is a fair amount of heaving, lurching and grooving on the record, there is also an abundance of trad-metal gallop and chugga-chugga that keeps the proceedings moving along rather nicely. The album is not riddled with dazzling leads, but the few that do crop up are tastefully done.
A particularly impressive aspect of Skulthor Ebonblade is vocal performance of singer/guitarist Micah. It’s clear the man is no Bruce Dickinson, range-wise, but Micah is surprisingly capable, and he’s done a fine job of crafting and performing strong vocal melodies that really make Skulthor a memorable record.
Daring a concept album for your first LP is a ballsy move, but Temptation’s Wings pulls it off in rather impressive fashion. This is a band to keep an eye on.
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POWER TRIP – NIGHTMARE LOGIC
Power Trip has built up a pretty good buzz across two albums now, and with good reason: Their crossover thrash aesthetic, though almost wholly borrowed from style titans like DRI and Cro-Mags, is just so damned fun that it’s nearly irresistible. Balancing the line between a more technical thrashing style and swaggering hardcore beatdowns, the riffs are catchy and concise, and vocalist Riley Gale spits his lyrics with palpable passion. Earlier album Manifest Decimation was a strong opening statement, but Nightmare Logic exceeds it in almost every factor, most notably in quality songs, with the appropriately swinging “Executioner’s Tax (Swing Of The Axe)” and the driving “Waiting Around To Die” foremost among them. (The latter is regrettably not a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s masterpiece of the same title.) Retro-thrash has long been over, but to dismiss any band mining thrash’s glory days for current inspiration is tossing babies and bathwater – Power Trip’s sound may be decades old, but their energy is very much here and now, and Nightmare Logic brings that energy in spades.
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LUBRICANT – SWALLOW THIS
Recorded (mostly) way back in 1993, Lubricant’s early material represented a snapshot of the beginnings of death metal in Finland. Somewhere between Adramelech and Convulse, Lubricant weave jagged, edgy riffs with hypnotic, swirling rhythms hammering away behind them along with plenty of brave experimentation (like the straight punk in “Laceration of Vasoconstrictive Emotion”). Swallow This represents a compilation of their early (aka vintage, artisanal, organic and other Brooklyn words) material. Existing briefly between 1990 and 1994, Lubricant certainly made an impact, helping to pioneer what would become the instantly recognizable Finnish death metal sound. Combining a demo and an EP (Swallow The Symmetric Swab and Nookleptia) Swallow Thisprovides death metal with all the Finnish bluster, intrigue, croaking vocals, sizzling tweeters and booming subs. I heartily endorse, recommend and implore you to absorb this release. Oh, and theoretically they are back together.
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BASEMENT TORTURE KILLINGS –
THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT BERYL
Is this an Exhumed demo tape? Also, timely title reference. Be on the lookout for Basement Torture Killings‘ follow-up Do I Make You Muuurdery? Standard death/thrash/grind complete with dual vocals, semi-coherent solos, and the other stock elements of a band. This gets pretty listenable towards the final couple of tracks, which makes me wonder if there would have been a good album hiding here at twice the amount of songs. As it stands, hard pass.
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