(This is Todd Manning’s review of the debut EP by Australia’s mysterious Miserist.)
A new year is upon us and there’s no reason to believe we’re not just one more step closer to the carnivorous abyss. No wonder extreme music just gets nastier and more oppressive, the most recent torchbearers coming in the form of the Australian mystery collective Miserist. This self-titled debut EP is a cavern-borne Death/Industrial hybrid, and strangely, considering the style, entirely instrumental. This one facet proves to be most compelling, coming across as a strange absence at first, but then as an abstraction upon repeated listens. The more one listens, the more this one facet opens itself up to speculation about the thought process behind the decision.
For the most part, Miserist alternate between devastating yet obscure slabs of blast-beat-driven Death Metal, often reminiscent of the mighty Portal, and more mid-paced Industrial-fueled sludge. Without vocals, the music becomes both inhuman and weightless; even the most straightforward riffs become atmospheric. And there is a layer of grime and filth overlaying the whole affair as well. The listener is invited to imagine all sorts of post-apocalyptic futures stimulated by their assault.
(Todd Manning prepared the following two reviews.)
Sometimes you hear a couple of releases and you can’t help but pair them together, and that is certainly the case with the new albums by The Drip and Endorphins Lost. Both of these bands hail from the Pacific Northwest and lash out at the world with Grindcore-soaked fury, and both have new albums coming out less than two months apart. Endorphins Lost even mention The Drip in a press release as one of their influences. There’s probably more connections, but you get the point.
ENDORPHINS LOST: CHOOSE YOUR WAY
Endorphins Lost released their burner Choose Your Way via Six Weeks Records on November 25th. They draw heavily from Powerviolence with their penchant for abrupt tempo changes and blasting fury. They are simultaneously jarring and intoxicating, and manage to bust out no less than fourteen tracks in roughly twenty-eight minutes.
(We’ve rolled out some very long year-end lists, with more of them to come, but this one by NCS contributor Todd Manning is a compact, though varied, 10 items in length. Enjoy.)
As years go, 2016 has been a real kick-in-the-balls, and further down the road we probably won’t talk too much about the year in music, except maybe about everyone that died. That being said, it was the first year I really threw myself into writing about music on a regular basis and I have to thank No Clean Singing, AvantGarde-Metal.com, and Burning Ambulance for being willing to publish my semi-coherent ramblings. Doing a top ten list seems like a nice culmination to my efforts and a chance to interrogate all the music I’ve heard and see what really made an impression.
This list is as much for myself as it is for anyone else, though it has been a challenge to force myself to rank all the music I’ve heard this year. By my estimation, I’ve heard approximately 115 full 2016 releases, primarily from Metal and Hardcore. I can’t tell you how many individual songs I’ve heard, fragments of albums, and so on. It seems like a lot, but I’m pretty sure there are others who have listened to quite a few more.
I sketched out this list quite a few times and it kept changing from day to day. I decided it was time to just finish the damn thing, but will of course list a few runner-ups as well. So without further ado…
(Todd Manning reviews this re-mastered (or in some cases mastered for the first time) compilation of tracks by the now-defunct Spazz originally recorded from 1995-1996, plus a full live set from 1996.)
I always have drawn a rather false analogy when comparing music genres that goes something like, Metal is to Classical as Punk and Hardcore are to Jazz, trying to express the relative approaches of the musicians and their interactions as ensembles. More or less, Metal and Classical often seem to put a premium on a certain sort of precision, whereas Punk/Hardcore and Jazz, often at their best, rely on a tight sort of looseness, a sense that everything could fall apart at a moment’s notice, but yet the band manages to hold everything together, creating an enthralling dynamic tension.
All that being said, if most Hardcore were analogous to a Hard Bop quintet in full swing, then Powerviolence represented the most gonzo of Free Jazz ensembles, and Spazz was the king of the musical renegades.
If you can survive the global autopsy that is the nightly news and feel like you’re not drowning in toxic-fecal sludge, you must not be paying attention. But then again, who doesn’t love the smell of the apocalypse in the morning? Once again, desperate times call for even more extreme music than usual, so let’s once again take a peek in the darkest corners of the underground to find the soundtrack for the end times.
(Todd Manning provides this review of a debut EP by the Texas band Monte Luna.)
Austin, Texas duo Monte Luna have just released their debut two-song demo on Bandcamp at the name-your-price level, and it would be best if you didn’t sleep on this one. Mixing equal parts Doom, Sludge, and Dark Psychedelic vibes, they create an atmosphere of tasteful heaviness, full of subtle menace.
“Father Arbitor” kicks things off with bits of noise swirling around while a sample invokes the dark spirits overseeing the material. James Cl’s guitar is distant and striking, heavy but not overtly so. The gravity of the track comes from Phil Hook’s immense beats, slow and tectonic. The vocals sound like they blew in on the wind, ghosts creeping at the edge of the campfire. While it would be mistake to say this isn’t heavy, atmosphere seems to take center stage.
(Todd Manning is the author of this review for Meta, the new third album by New York’s Car Bomb.)
I’ll admit it, I was disappointed with the direction Dillinger Escape Plan took starting with their third full-length Miss Machine. That’s not meant to disparage the band or their later work — it’s actually quite good and I’m sure they don’t need my approval anyway. But, the promise of sheer chaos was so strong with Under the Running Board and Calculating Infinity that I bought into the premise hook, line, and sinker. And honestly, some of the group’s more recent work had headed back to their original direction, which was a pretty awesome turn of events. But what I want to talk about is the third full-length coming from New York-based mad men Car Bomb.
Car Bomb have always embraced the chaos and confusion and have taken that original Dillinger-inspired blueprint to new and unforeseen depths of madness. Their latest release Meta sees them further explore their sound, continuing to add more dimensions and explore greater ranges of dynamics. These qualities are fleshed out well by the production work of Gojira’s Joe Duplantier, who also contributes vocals to the track “The Oppressor”.
(T0dd Manning prepared this review of the new album by Indiana’s Kvlthammer.)
Extreme Metal nowadays draws from such an amazingly diverse range of influences that one would be forgiven for forgetting its essential roots in pure Rock and Roll fury, but there are always bands there to remind us of the vitality of the stripped-down approach. Indianapolis-based maniacs Kvlthammer are one such act and their latest opus Oath is a powerful statement of straight-for-the-throat Metal that any self-respecting Metalhead would do well not to pass by.
Album opener “Don’t Try” lays down the framework quite nicely with its mash-up of Motörhead and Discharge, with sprinklings of Sludge and tons of nice twin-guitar work. From there, each track touches upon so many classic elements while establishing its own niche at the same time. One might spot moments of Celtic Frost butting up against Venom and Kill’em All-era Metallica, and occasionally more current bands such as Goatwhore, Craft, and Darkthrone exert their influence as well.
(NCS contributor Todd Manning returns to NCS with these recommendations of recent hardcore releases and reissues.)
If Black Metal has staked its claim to the heart of winter, maybe Hardcore, Punk, and Grind should do the same for the dead of summer. This latest batch of releases does nothing if not invoke the atmosphere of furnace-like basement shows and all the blood, sweat, and beer that comes along with the territory. As Metal labels seem to take a breather from their first-quarter release schedules, their feral counterparts are here to take up the slack.
And perhaps you’ve heard of this first act, seeing as how they’ve been receiving quite a bit of attention. The second release from G.L.O.S.S., Trans Day of Revenge, is an exhibition of absolutely unhinged Hardcore Punk, seething with the type of anger and outrage that is the lifeblood of the genre. There is a loose ferocity to their sound that places a premium on emotion over precision, but in this case that’s definitely a good thing. Focused on LGBT issues, their focus is laser-sharp and timely and should not be slept on. This release as well as the first demo are both available on Bandcamp at the name-your-price level.
(In this post Todd Manning provides brief reviews of new releases by Dark Descent and Unspeakable Axe.)
Death might just be the overarching theme of 2016, but the tandem of Dark Descent Records and their sub-imprint Unspeakable Axe are certainly spinning this in their favor by releasing a continuous string of remarkable Death Metal albums. While I have already had the opportunity to talk about new albums from the likes of Ripper, Nucleus, and Hemotoxin, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to gush about a few more albums from the label.
First up is the new album from Montreal-based Phobocosm. Bringer of Drought is the follow-up to their impressive debut Deprived and is nothing short of astonishing. Despite the label’s reputation as being at the forefront of the New Wave of Old School Death Metal, none of these bands seems to be unoriginal or regressive in such a way that causes them to lack their own identity. This is perhaps best illustrated by Phobocosm, who seem to marry the epic feel of classic Neurosis to the Death Metal/Doom hybrid of Inverloch and Disembowelment.