The Month In Metal – June 2021

The Month In Metal – June 2021

Let’s say you’re vaccinated. Things are starting to reopen. It’s summer. (My sincere apologies for rubbing this in, southern hemisphere, but you had your summer.) It’s BBQ season. You have charcoal briquettes on the brain. You and every yard-blessed metalhead and their fire-escape-cooking cousins are ready to once again consider the burning question of every cookout: What should be on the BBQ playlist?

Do you go thrash, snorting speedballs of early Teutonic titans to spike your adrenaline? Do you go epic doom, purposely matching the sun-scorched sluggishness of a heatwave? Do you go NWO_HM, ensuring a good time had by all? Do you slop on some OSDM, satiating the sickos? Or… if you dare… do you slam, stopping any curious neighbor from ever talking to you again? These are all viable options. Do you. It’s your party.

But… maybe you’re looking for something else. Something unexpected. Something that will make people look up from their phones and say, “What is this?” If so, perhaps this is the summer that you embrace a playlist that can only be described as “magically shitty.” What is magically shitty? This is magically shitty:

More specifically, that’s “Hate Cloak,” the lead stream, from Darkthrone’s 19th full-length, Eternal Hails……. In the promo copy, Fenriz described these new songs as “Five heavy dinosaurs looking in wonder and bewilderment at the stars,” which happens to be the exact thing I texted my friends before they told me that I can no longer feed their dogs while I’m on shrooms.

Fenriz isn’t wrong, of course. “Hate Cloak” sounds downright Triassic. I imagine Fenriz and Nocturno Culto had to pitch it to Peaceville with the Mr. DNA animation. The track clocks in at a lumbering nine minutes and creaks along with an ancient heavy metalness. At first blush, it’s a weird thing to hear in 2021. “Hate Cloak” isn’t a throwback. It’s just… back. It’s like someone playing “Greensleeves” without any modern adornments… you know, if “Greensleeves” was written by teenage metalhead dipshits. The fact that, no offense, these old dudes can still conjure up the teenage dipshittery of a bygone age is super impressive. I am obviously dumb as hell, but I don’t think I could ever be teenage dumb again. In that way, “Hate Cloak” is an intoxicatingly powerful kind of dumb.

To that end, in a similar context, “Hate Cloak”’s component parts would be shitty. If some replacement-level band on Hells Bonehead squeezed out something like this, I’d just be like, “Oh man, this is shitty.” Ah, but Fenriz and Ted radiate with an irrepressible heavy metal character. Their unique nature, their high levels of heavy metal feeling, transmogrifies the shittiness into something… else. It’s as if, despite the shittiness, despite the miss, “Hate Cloak” still ends up in the right place, that being a catchy heavy metal track that kicks ass. In a way, it’s catchy because of the shittiness. If it wasn’t catchy, it would just be shitty. If it wasn’t shitty, it wouldn’t be catchy. And thus, it can only be described as magically shitty.

Granted, as longtime readers know, Darkthrone have a lot of leash with me. I think this track rules because I think Darkthrone rule. I’m… not sure the other Black Market makers agree with me, which is fine. That’s kind of the thing; magical shittiness is in the ear of the beholder. What is magically shitty to some is either straight up magical or straight up shitty to others. It’s a real “know it when you hear it” concept and that built-in subjectivity makes magical shittiness a hard thing to pin down.

For instance, Darkthrone aren’t always magically shitty. In fact, I think they’re rarely magically shitty since what they do is often too intentional and too good in a normally good way. Like, the remainder of Eternal Hails…… isn’t magically shitty. The other four dinosaurs just crush. Yes, those dinos sound just as ancient as “Hate Cloak,” similarly recalling a time when zines were still codifying “black metal” and trying that tag out on, say, Running Wild. Yes, those dinos might actually be Clearasil-covered dorks attempting to make Savatage riffs sound evil before the The A-Team comes on. But those dinos are also too aware. For one thing, the drum production is perfect, favoring the kind of cokehead arena rock thump that ‘80s bands like a young Mercyful Fate carried over from the ‘70s because that’s just how drums were still recorded when the first wave of black metal started heading into studios. That detail is too smart. (Not to mention, Fenriz’s sense of groove is too good.) Eternal Hails…… is kind of like a Tarantino-esque remix of history, knowingly enlarging the things we’ve come to favor and stylizing the period’s vibe to increase its coolness. It’s just magical, full stop.

This is, no doubt, confusing. If “Hate Cloak” is magically shitty but the rest of Eternal Hails…… is not, then what the hell is magically shitty and how the hell can you make a playlist of it? Well, let’s tighten up our definition. That means, yep, let’s crack open the Black Market Glossary.

Magically Shitty

A note from the artist: “Observing and appreciating the ‘magically shitty’ requires not just an ear for the musical performance but appreciating its visual presentation with the execution of tactfully shitty design decisions.”

Origin: Lariviered

1. an element of a heavy metal song or album that would sound bad in similar contexts but, because of its shittiness, makes the song or album catchier.

Example:

“Holy heck, the AOR opening of Source’s ‘Hunger’ is so magically shitty! What even is that, an REO Speedwagon deep cut? I love it.”

2. a song or album that, in the process of trying to embody a heavy metal ideal, misses in a pleasingly weird way. In turn, thanks to the artist’s unique heavy metal character and the transformative power of heavy metal feeling, the weirdness winds up making the song or album equally as metal, if not more so, than if the artist achieved that end in a more traditionally good way.

Example:

Crurifragium sounds like three orcs and one drunk bear fighting over a nail gun in a pressboard factory. What a magically shitty mess.”

Okay. There are your two definitions. Before we can break them down, we have to set some boundaries.

To start, note that for something to be magically shitty, be it an element or a full work, the shittiness needs to be born out of necessity (i.e., substandard equipment, ambition that exceeds skill) or totally accidental (i.e., you have no idea what you’re doing). Much like how purposely bad movies are interminable, you can’t really be magically shitty on purpose. That whole strain of blog-bait outsider black metal that made waves in the ‘00s died out for precisely that reason. I tend to lump 99 percent of cosplay dungeon synth into that same bucket, but I acknowledge that I am, in the parlance of shouty sports talk shows, a “hater.”

That distinction is why magical shittiness is sometimes confused for another metal concept, “accidentally good.” That is when a band is good but its members almost certainly cannot explain to you why it is/was good. I have zero faith that James Hetfield can accurately explain why Metallica were good, therefore anything worthwhile that Metallica have done post-Justice is accidentally good. Manowar, during those blissful moments when they recognize that their true calling is epic doom, are accidentally good. Accidentally good bands may occasionally stumble into the magically shitty space — Vehemence’s God Was Created is both accidentally good and contains magically shitty elements — but the magical shittiness in those isolated instances are usually pretty distinct.

Ah, but there’s a catch. It is also true that what’s distinctly magically shitty now may not always be. I have to think that when some Swedish knuckleheads with a R.A.V.A.G.E. obsession decided to dime a BOSS HM-2 pedal, that was briefly in the realm of magical shittiness before its mass adoption. That’s kind of the thing, magical shittiness is a judgment call largely predicated on its perceived unexpectedness. (While I won’t follow this thread much further, I’ll add that if you have a smaller library of metal touchstones, you will naturally think more things are magically shitty. Conversely, if your library has a high concentration of magically shitty, you’re less likely to regard things as such.)

As an example, I don’t think a “ping” snare tone is in the magically shitty zone anymore because ping is so ubiquitous in the more toilet side of brutal death metal and grind. It definitely was magically shitty at one point, but ping is just something you do now, a box to check. (This happens to be one of my favorite things about metal, how decisions made, possibly, for reasons other than artistic preference soon become artistic preferences because the original article happens to whip ass.) Once a magically shitty element becomes a standard, it can only be judged as magical or shitty on its own terms.

That said, I feel like magical shittiness can undergo a redistricting over time. Re-litigating something’s metallness is, of course, the most metal of pastimes. And, the further one moves away from something, especially after a genre has been standardized, the greater the potential for that thing to be moved back into the realm of magical shittiness. When it does, those songs and albums tend to fall under the second definition of magically shittiness, which makes for prime playlist material. I think there’s an interesting reason for why that redistricting occurs, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s back up.

If you’ve encountered the concept of magical shittiness in these pages before, it probably adheres to the first definition. That’s the more common usage. It acknowledges that any element of a heavy metal song can be magically shitty. Vocals, instruments, performance, songwriting, lyrics, production, video, vibe. Mark The Shark’s vocals on Manilla Road’s “Necropolis” are magically shitty. The drums on the new demo by 七生報國, which might as well be someone playing a cookie sheet, are magically shitty. Paradise Lost’s extremely drunk, inhibition-lowering performance on Lost Paradise is magically shitty. Malice coining the portmanteau “infernity,” which is Hell’s eternal inferno, is magically shitty. Likewise, Exodus advising that you can run away from piranhas is magically shitty. Lee Aaron’s video for “Metal Queen” is magically shitty. Matterhorn’s entire ‘Celtic Frost with a concussion’ vibe is delightfully magically shitty.

Now, this is extremely important: While these elements are magically shitty, I’m not sure I’d call those bands, albums, or songs magically shitty. 七生報國 is close, but it still fits comfortably into an accepted lo-fi black metal model. This is key: 七生報國 doesn’t miss in a weird way, it just has addictively trash-ass drums. To make this point from a different angle, the original mix of Pig Destroyer’s Prowler In The Yard is magically shitty. It is the “I got this ballpoint pen tattoo at a party and now I have hepatitis” of mixes. Its sketchiness, and the scumbag atmosphere it creates, go a long way towards making that record a masterpiece. The shittiness adds to the experience. That’s why the “similar context” test was built into the first magically shitty definition. That mix might make other records sound like a pile of shit, but I couldn’t imagine Prowler without it.

Magically shitty elements are easy to find. You might even say that metal was built upon magically shittiness. Songs and albums that fit the second magically shitty definition, though? That’s harder to sniff out. It requires being able to hear, analyze, and enjoy a pleasingly weird miss. And what does that sound like? How about this:

The first song in that video is “Road I’m Traveling,” the opener of Pandemonium’s 1983 album Heavy Metal Soldiers. Something about the stumbling songwriting and weedly riffs that chooga instead of chugga is magically shitty. Unless you’ve only listened to Lizzy Borden for the last 30-plus years, “Road I’m Traveling” doesn’t fit squarely in what we’ve come to expect an ‘80s heavy metal band to sound like. It’s not powerful… it is… I don’t know… sneaky? It sounds sneaky! What a sneaky-ass song. You could survey an old fart label like Stormspell and find nary a band that’s trying to revive early Pandemonium’s particular idiosyncrasies. Be that as it may, that slightly askew, slithery sneakiness makes it a goddamn earworm. Every time I hear it I’m like, “Whoa, weird… sneaky.” Every time I hear it, I get the pre-chorus and chorus stuck in my head. That’s the epitome of second-definition magically shittiness! Grade-A magical shit.

Here’s the fun part, when we dive back into the idea of redistricting: I can’t imagine that “Road I’m Traveling” was considered magically shitty at the time. Pandemonium, originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, got a pretty big push from Metal Blade. In the description to this video uploaded by guitarist David Resch, Pandemonium apparently co-headlined the second night of the 1984 Metal Massacre/Metal Blade Records showcase at Los Angeles’s The Roxy. Its openers? Savage Grace and Slayer. It’s like the Jeff Bagwell trade as a metal bill. Still, since US heavy metal wasn’t fully standardized, Pandemonium was probably regarded less as an outlier and more as a band exploring an acceptable side path of metal. That is to say, it didn’t sound as far away from heavy metal as it does now.

For this reason, the biggest pockets of second-definition magical shittiness grow near the roots of subgenres. Not surprisingly, the various NWO_HM incarnations are loaded with magical shitty. Since the kvlt police didn’t exist, and whatever gatekeepers that did didn’t have an absurdly large database to judge bands against, the weirder metal potatoes that rolled towards the back cupboard could grow more sprouts. Ethel The Frog, Glory Bell’s Band, etc. But whenever a metal style starts to undergo an experimental phase and an infinite number of possible paths open up, the magically shitty start plopping out. Embrionic Death went from gross-out brutal death metal to bugfuck prog death in the space of a year, eventually churning out the magically shitty Stream Of Solidarity… demo in 1993. Check this out:

While you’re more likely to find second-definition magical shittiness in deprecated metal paths that have been redistricted, magical shittiness still happens all of the time today. Pyöveli, the Finnish speed/thrash band, is three decades removed from the speed metal swirl’s heyday. No matter, the brothers, T. Metal N. and T. Pyöveli N., are laser focused on delivering an exceedingly narrow true interpretation of the style. Because the duo is working within the confines of a trapped-in-time genre with few other practitioners sharing their same true fervor, something akin to founder effect has taken place. When Pyöveli are measured against the comparative diversity of nowadays speed metal, the results are so appealingly weird. It’s like the brothers’ pleasingly weird miss is just that, due to their intentional isolation in ultra orthodox speed metal, it doesn’t even consider that it can miss. I mean, listen to the cabin fever energy emanating from this:

Argh, so good. Like Darkthrone’s “Hate Cloak,” Pyöveli’s intense heavy metal character is pivotal. That’s the magic. If I covered “No Speed Limits” note for note with the same gear, it would be shitty because I don’t have any heavy metal feeling. Pyöveli, though, are oozing with it. It’s like… magically shittiness is the Force and heavy metal feeling is the Midi-chlorians? I can’t believe I wrote that.

Newer second-definition magically shitty metal often resides in a similar space, one where bands try so hard to slavishly nail a heavy metal ideal that the output sounds bizarre, mutated not by modern styles but the players’ skill levels and heavy metal values. Hellhound, last seen closing out the Trad Belt column, are one of these bands. Their desire to be extremely heavy metal is their driving purpose. That’s not weird. The modifier, then, is the band’s heavy metal feeling. And that’s awesomely weird.

Let’s tie this all together and then I’ll cut you loose. In keeping with our original Darkthrone theme, here’s Fenriz’ Red Planet.

This is a song that fits both definitions of magical shittiness. That “hey!” in the intro is a prime example of a magically shitty element. It’s less an expected OOGH, more what you’d say to someone you don’t recognize. “Phil, Phil Connors?!” …hey! It’s so good and it would suck in a similar stoner doom song.

And the song itself is, also, magically shitty. It lines up the second-wave of Sabbath disciples like ‘80s Pentagram and Trouble but misses and ends up in a totally bizarre space all of its own, like if Electric Wizard and Sleep gave up on weed for Edgar Rice Burroughs and Fritz Leiber. And it rules. So much heavy metal feeling. After the “hey!,” Fenriz turns up the catchy qualities of the rest of the track, and that element of incongruity becomes catchier. That’s prime magical shittiness and that’s why a magically shitty playlist works so well: You get the WTF and the catchiness. “Whoa, what is this? Oh, this rules.” And now everyone is having an awesome time at the BBQ.

Anyway, maybe we can scare up a few more of these and crowdsource a full playlist. Show me the magically shitty. –Ian Chainey

10

Unto Others - “When Will God’s Work Be Done”

Location: Portland, OR
Subgenre: heavy metal

Portland’s Unto Others (formerly Idle Hands, with a name shift due to a trademark claim) put out what I think was the best album of 2019 in their debut Mana. Embodying some idealized version of a moody, goth-y, big hair ’80s metal band, with monster hooks and nonchalant swagger built for the heyday of MTV, I was lucky to premiere that one and try to wrap my head around how they nailed everything so perfectly. Though the melodies will pull in fans from all walks, there’s some real heavy hitter qualities at play. Frontman Gabriel Franco employs an exquisite “OOOGH!” at just the right moments, and big bad blasts will take off without warning. On “When Will God’s Work Be Done,” the lead single from their second album coming up on Roadrunner (they opened for King Diamond in the US in 2019 on the strength of Mana and seem destined to continue on the ascent to bigger and bigger things), the hooks are extra sharp. The super stylish, mournful, and anticipation-building lead, Franco’s deadpan baritone, the big bong-y bass plonking along, the razor sharp drumming loaded with attitude — it’s all set up to explode. But before it does, Unto Others build and build, showing mastery in setting a scene, stretching tension to its breaking point, and then blowing it to smithereens with panache. Prepare for an earworm. [From an as yet unnamed album, out at some point via Roadrunner Records.]Wyatt Marshall

09

Metharoma - “Spray And Pray”

Location: Germany / United States
Subgenre: brutal death metal

Okay, let’s talk goo. I’m going to let Metharoma, an international collaboration between some American degenerates and premier bass-string-flicker Jacob Schmidt of Defeated Sanity, be the headliner, but this budget blurb patterned after old trade magazine columns is designed to catch you up on what’s been happening in Goo World and some adjacent death metal that I’ve been meaning to cram in here. Get ready, go: Pipe Dreams (Through the Alley), Metharoma’s full-length debut, is pretty much what it says on the tin, a Disgorge-y dive into drug abuse. I don’t think it gets better than “Spray And Pray,” which nails the album’s centerpiece slam while singer Ben Kitchen’s guttural exultation echoes in time. Rules. Unsurprisingly, New Standard Elite is, once again, killing it. We’ve talked about some of the brutal death metal label’s output this year, but here’s a shout out to the other highlights: Ecuador’s Infectology is ultra promising, offering a two-song preview that’s even more unhinged than past work; Dyskinesia, the sick side piece of Sanguisugabogg members that I like way more than their dayjob, slams with killer sense of swing; and Urged, the debut of some familiar Black Market standbys from Indonesia, Laos, and Thailand, has a legendarily NSFW album cover that pairs well with its dirtball, grinding BDM. Elsewhere, I’d like to formally put on the record that, just after our intro about them, Last Days Of Humanity released their comeback LP. It’s really good, mixing the catchiness of the early material with the speed of the later stuff. More goregrind? Nyctophagia has resurfaced as a full band. Dylan Phagia (guitars/vox) has added ping-wizard Isaac Horne (Sulfuric Cautery, Lurid Panacea) on drums, Cody Davidson (Dyskinesia, Sanguisugabogg) on bass, and Joe Warkentin (Raw Addict) on guitars. Terrified Of Tomorrow bangs, reminding me of where Roskopp might be if it stuck around. For a band that has stuck around, well, you didn’t have to wait long for a new Dead And Dripping. The gnarly one-man band that we covered last year that recaptured the sweaty repugnance of early BDM, has returned with Miasmic Eulogies Predicating An Eternal Nocturne. In a similar moldy mold, Toronto’s Fumes repackaged two of their demos into a single compilation titled Assemblage Of Disgust. Speaking of compilations, Massive Retaliation are going out with one. Their last chug, The Final March, is now up on Bandcamp. If you want to travel to the end of everything, check out the new Effluence, Ballistic Bloodspray. This… this band, friends. No words. I really don’t know where BDM can go from there. Finally, while this last album was released in 2017, I wanted to give it a push. Thanks to the efforts of the BDM archaeologists in my Bandcamp feed, here’s Tentacle Centipede from Japan and their album Keichitsu. My review: Holy shit. And this has been your Goo Minute. Let’s never do this again. [From Pipe Dreams (Through The Alley), out now via New Standard Elite.]Ian Chainey

08

Body Void - “Laying Down In A Forest Fire”

Location: Vermont
Subgenre: sludge / doom metal

In a 2019 interview with Dreams Of Consciousness, Body Void guitarist/vocalist Willow Ryan said, “We’re a slow punk band from the Bay Area, California. Sometimes we play fast too.” I appreciate a self-aware one-liner, although it’s now outdated as the band recently moved back to the east coast and slimmed down to a duo. Still, at a base level, that’s pretty much what you get on Body Void’s third full-length, Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth. It’s slow. Sometimes it’s fast. Compared to Ryan’s other project Hellish Form, which has a similar BPM but is draped in a post-punk/goth-y lushness, Body Void comes off as pretty austere on the surface. Eddy Holgerson’s drums pound. Ryan’s guitar and voice are stretched to their limits. In the way of classics from Whitehorse and Grief, it’s catharsis through slow-motion agony, like if the painfully creeping qualities of Khanate were recast as punk. And then you start to notice the little things. While some bands are content to strap you to the rack for no other reason than to inspire suffering, Body Void has the build of Godspeed, patiently constructing these songs and delivering the payoffs in neat, albeit understated, ways. As an example, noise often rises from the abyss, cloaking repetitions in a menacing haze. There’s also an attention to sonic detail here that’s Hell-esque, not just in the way Body Void dials in the tones but writes catchy, uncluttered riffs. Still, while Body Void’s keen compositional chops make Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth fly by faster than you’d expect, the power of its playing is why you come back. Ryan’s screams cut through the thick wums with a relatable, wounded fury. Holgerson beats the hell out of his kit. Absolutely magnetic. [From Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth, out now via Prosthetic Records / Tridroid Records.]Ian Chainey

07

Eternal Sword - “Wandering In The Darkness Of Night Part I”

Location: ???
Subgenre: atmospheric black metal

The presumably one-man band Eternal Sword’s debut demo is pitch perfect epic black metal shrouded in smoke, a lo-fi battle soundtrack built for scaling ramparts and swinging swords. Full-charge hero riffs, reminiscent of the likes of Forteresse, lead the foray, naturally. At first blush Eternal Sword would qualify as murk-core, but obscured beneath hiss and crackle there’s a remarkable depth to the guitars and, somewhat unusual for the style, a very beefy low-end, with booming drums and a satisfying center of gravity. It isn’t all steel and struggle; over its 17-plus minutes, “Wandering In The Darkness Of Night Part I” pulls back from the field to dwell on dazed regret and dreary melancholy. Comprised of just two tracks of raw demo gold — with virtually unseeable album art, zero information about who comprises Eternal Sword, no label, and no country of origin — this is the kind of demo that keeps forum dwellers scraping Bandcamp and, sound unheard, ordering cassettes with shipping costs that far outweigh the cost of the actual media. [From The Cursed Land, out now via the band.]Wyatt Marshall

06

Atvm - “Squeal In Tourment”

Location: London, England
Subgenre: progressive death metal

Admittedly, Atvm should’ve been here sooner. Famine, Putrid And Fucking Endless, the London quartet’s full-length debut, got buried in an avalanche of worthy bangers that came rumbling down throughout an absolutely insane April. (Fun fact: You can get a quick snapshot of the health of underground metal by how badly the column stresses me out. I somehow still haven’t covered Bridge Burner, and Disempath is one of my favorite records of the year. Pretty stressed!) However, and I’m saying this in the same tone of an executive trying to save his job after clicking on a ransomware link, maybe it was a good thing that I waited. Indeed, Famine, Putrid And Fucking Endless isn’t a one-spin-and-it’ll-sink-in record. Thanks to the prodding from reader, friend, and all-around good egg Bobby Keane, the extra couple months afforded me the opportunity to unlock what these weirdos are doing. And what they’re doing rules. Tagged as progressive death, Atvm are exactly that and… aren’t that at all. On the one hand, as you’ll hear, they’re definitely progressive. This band goes the extra mile whenever possible. On the other, this isn’t the progressive death of… you know… Death. In a genre choked with Death clones, Atvm are like if Defeated Sanity was tasked with making a thrash record. Not only do you get the twitchy inventiveness, you get long song excursions that luxuriate in the thrill of constructing multilinear journeys. The seven tracks are almost Chasm-esque in that respect, but they tend to take the expectation-subverting scenic route to every destination. Tens of plays deep, I’m continually delighted by the playing of Francis Ball (drums) and Luke Abbott (bass) and the insane rhythms these two churn out. Guitarist Tom Calcraft’s riffs are also something special, seemingly existing in between prog, tech thrash, and blackened death. But my favorite formula flipper is singer Harry Bray, who favors a more gruff style that ensures that, unlike some prog death practitioners, Atvm don’t deliver a diminished version of the death element. While you should just start at the beginning, I’m going to jump you in with “Squeal Of Tourment,” which shows off Atvm’s eclecticism. The beginning is like if Anata aligned itself with Coroner. Then, a jazzy rest stop follows before Atvm absolute nail the outro. I don’t want to give it away since the joy is in the listening. And, trust me on this one, it’s worth listening to again and again. [From Famine, Putrid And Fucking Endless, out now via the band.]Ian Chainey

05

Bridge Burner - “Bodies As Graveyards”

Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Subgenre: death/grind / metalcore / d-beat

Oh hey, would you look at that: Bridge Burner. In the way that some daydream about destroying the 1950s NBA with a basic crossover or dominating 16th century Europe with an automatic rifle, I wonder if Bridge Burner ever fantasize about entering the wayback machine, crashing a ‘90s metalcore bill, and just laying waste. While this New Zealand quintet’s Bandcamp contains tags of “blackened hardcore,” “d-beat,” “death metal,” and “grindcore,” my old-ass ears can’t unhear something like Turmoil and I fucking love it. Sure, all of those tags are rolled into Disempath, the band’s second full-length, since Bridge Burner are a modern entity and the boundaries between metal styles are slowly fading away. That’s what makes burners like “Bodies as Graveyards” so good. It opens spraying a black metal flame thrower in every direction. What sprouts from that charred ground is some Dragbody discordance given some death metal heft and, then, a Sulaco-esque breakdown. That’s the thing I can’t get over. At their root, Bridge Burner are a band that, a couple decades back, would’ve hopped on a Midwest run with Disembodied and Bloodlet and wrecked their share of VFW halls and Unitarian churches. But they have replaced the cringe from that general style that hasn’t aged well – horrendous cleans, wimpy leads, spokels, songs with titles like “Trash Can Hands,” etc. – with suitably ass-wiping moments from blackened hardcore, d-beat, death metal, and grindcore. All of it just rips and rips in varied ways. There’s more than one way to kick my ass and Bridge Burner have found a lot of them. Anyway, I should mention that Ben Read, singer on Ulcerate’s first album, is the singer here. That seems more notable than me prattling on like a geek. [From Disempath, out now via Hibernation Release.]Ian Chainey

04

Diskord - “Abnegations”

Location: Oslo, Norway
Subgenre: death metal

Take the collected transcribed works of Voivod, Autopsy, Virus, Atheist, !T.O.O.H.!, and Carbonized. Shuffle in some jazzy freakouts, avant-classical dissonant detonations, and Destroy, Erased, Improved juddery lurches. Dump those music sheets into an industrial shredder. Enlist the world’s most annoying suburban dad to leafblow all of it into a bag at 6AM on a Sunday. Put the bag on a certain domestic airline… you know which one. Don’t worry when they lose the bag. Recover the bag, somehow, at Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport. How… the hell… doesn’t matter. Smuggle the bag, with much peril, across many bodies of water and country borders. Pay some of the world’s finest rug makers to sift through the bag and sew the music sheets back together. Bind the reconstructed sheets into a book and toss it into the capsule of a satellite containing a guitar, bass, and drum set. Launch the satellite into space. Take control of the satellite’s conveniently mounted laser and blow whatever Bezos or Musk project happens to be in orbit nearby to hell. Pilot the satellite and slingshot it around Jupiter. Then, forget about it. You’ll wither and die. Many generations of your descendants will wither and die. Earth will wither and die. (Putting this at approximately, let me check my math here, 2024.) 30,000 light-years later, an armory of space aardvarks suffering from space rabies encounters the satellite. They crack it open. The toes on their space feet slide naturally into place over the instruments contained within. They flip open the book. A spark of recognition flashes across their manic space aardvark faces. They begin to play. My god, it’s full of sta — oh no, they’re sucked into a black hole. The sound of these demented space aardvarks playing furiously with Titanic-deck abandon as they’re event horizoned into space spaghetti is the sound of the songs Diskord left off of Degenerations because Degenerations is, get this, even crazier. Somehow… it’s catchy? I don’t know, readers. I’ve been waiting for this Norwegian trio to break out since Doomscapes, their strange, twisted 2007 debut. We’re now on album number three. The band has gotten stranger and twistier… and catchier. I really don’t know how they do it, how they can split and move in opposing directions without snapping the communication cable holding their two selves together. Hans Jørgen Ersvik plays drums like a crazy person. Eyvind Wærsted Axelsen plays bass like a crazy person. Dmitry Soukhinin, who is making their Diskord debut despite joining the band in 2015, plays guitar like a crazy person. Somehow, within the chaos, when you focus on each individual part, it’s catchy. Writing about this record, as evidenced by everything I’ve just written, is dumb. There’s too much data, too many points to plot. You could write a book about “Abnegations” and still get well-actually-ied into oblivion. The only true reaction is to play it for an unsuspecting loved one and look dumbfounded at one another as they make plans to leave you. At least you’ll have this to listen to after they’re gone. It’s great. [From Degenerations, out 8/3 via Transcending Obscurity Records.]Ian Chainey

03

Jute Gyte - “Mitrealität”

Location: Springfield, MO
Subgenre: black metal

Much like Diskord’s new one, this is somehow the most accessible and least accessible thing Jute Gyte has done. It’s abstract yet coherent. Complex yet catchy. I really don’t know how Adam Kalmbach does it. Kalmbach obviously knows, though, as he keeps doing it and bettering it. So, it’s early, but Mitrealität might be my favorite Jute Gyte work, which is saying something since it’s the project’s 32nd full-length. 2021 has been as busy as ever: Three compilations and one other full-length, Diapason, which was described as a “five-voice mensuration canon at the fifth on the 24EDO series….” I am, uh, far too dumb to understand what that means. Likewise, in a recent interview with Invisible Oranges, Kalmbach said Mitrealität was partly influenced by William Gass’s The Tunnel, a book I will probably never read because my literary high-water mark is, like, Mark Russel and Steve Pugh’s Flintstones comics, but, nonetheless, sounds pretty cool. I’m bringing that stuff up to say, if you’re like me and don’t understand the hows and whys that went into making this record, you can still get a hell of a lot out of what it is. You don’t need a music degree to find the push/pull inherent in every element of Mitrealität engaging. Push: Jute Gyte’s guitar microtones can amass into these horrifying clouds, some real Ligeti nightmare shit. Pull: Since these tones are held for predictably long periods of time, they almost turn into ramps in a platformer game, making them super easy to digest. Listening to this album is often like watching a pinball drop from the top of a machine. You feel like there’s a certain guiding order in play, but it’s still fun to just listen as it bounces around the bumpers. Then, of course, you key in on the drums and those are like what the guys in Autechre must hear before they fall asleep. Just nuts. Anyway, the solo piano finale, “Pentalpha,” is far and away the prettiest thing I’ve heard this year, up there with similar cuts from the Richard D. James catalog. I love the way it rewires my brain on the fly, making whatever I listen to next sound alien. However, this is a metal column, so I’m going to pitch you the title track, an 18-minute behemoth which goes from a doomy, Nadja-esque crush to noisy dark ambient. Never stop, Jute Gyte. [From Mitrealität, out now via Jeshimoth Entertainment.]Ian Chainey

02

Silver Lake By Esa Holopainen - “Ray Of Light” (Feat. Einar Solberg)

Location: Helsinki, Finland
Subgenre: progressive metal

Esa Holopainen is best known as the lead guitar hero and founding member of Finnish hall of famers Amorphis. As chief axe man, he has guided the band’s sound as it’s evolved from OG death metal into periods of progressive and post metal and onto the current big-tent melodic sound they’ve embraced with new lead singer Tomi Joutsen. All along, Esa’s playful sense of melody, often incorporating near-Eastern modes and giving Amorphis a decidedly Amorphis sound, has caught hooks in countless ears for over 31(!!) years. During those decades, Holopainen accumulated a great deal of un-Amorphis material, and during the pandemic decided to make use of the time to record some of his work under his own guise as Silver Lake, enlisting a series of friend singers to do vocal duties. Even without the big riffs and accompanying growls, Esa’s signature style is plainly palpable — silky smooth, effortly stylish, and catchy as can be at times. “Ray Of Light,” along with the righteous lead single “Storm” that features singer Håkan Hemlin of the Swedish folk/rock/pop band Nordman belting it out in memorable fashion, is one of the highlights and wears its heart on its sleeve. On “Ray Of Light,” it’s Einar Solberg of the Norwegian progressive metal band Leprous delivering the vocal fireworks, nailing both the highs with dizzying range and the heart with daggers. Holopainen provides the rest, showing his wizard understanding of building and balancing laser-focused songs with rich instrumentation. Here’s hoping Holopainen continues to find time for Silver Lake — in his downtime, he’s produced one of the best rock albums of the year. [From Silver Lake By Esa Holopainen, out now via Nuclear Blast.]Wyatt Marshall

01

Рожь - “Последний”

Location: Republic of Karelia, Russia
Subgenre: atmospheric black metal / doom metal

Рожь, Russian for “Rye,” has created an utter masterpiece with the aptly named Вечное (“Eternal”). Equal parts funeral doom and black metal — the opener and closer bring world-shifting heaviness, while the middle two tracks burn white hot — the whole album is tied together by a surreal, soul-rending atmosphere. It’s simultaneously earthbound — the stuff of blood and bone — and full of cosmic wonder. “Последний,” one of the middle tracks, is the kind of jaw dropping atmospheric black metal that fully realizes the potential of the genre, when deeply moving ambience meshes with bristling kinetic energy to create surreal cinema in the mind’s eye. This stunning track, and album, are the work of Vladimir Firth, who under his own name has created powerful and serene meditative ambient works. Firth brings these powers to bear on Вечное, crafting some of the most evocative doom — enlivening the dead in the process — and black metal you’ll hear. [From Вечное, out now via the band.]Wyatt Marshall

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