A month has passed since we ran our last MISCELLANY post. A month between these posts is way too long. With that kind of lag, we’re even more behind in checking out new bands. We may have to run a bunch of these posts next week in an effort to catch up.
For any new readers out there, here’s the drill: NCS keeps a running list of bands who look interesting based on band e-mails or MySpace friend requests, reader recommendations, press releases, or news blurbs, and then every so often I pick a few names off the list and go listen to a song (or sometimes two). In these MISCELLANY posts, I write about what I heard and give you a chance to listen, too.
Because we don’t know the music in advance, there’s no guarantee about the results, but we’ve had good luck in the past. For today’s installment in this series, I listened to music from Achren (Scotland) and Giant of the Mountain (The Republic of Texas) — and was blown away by both. (more after the jump . . .)
I tumbled to this Glasgow band through an e-mail from their bass player, John Clark Paterson, and decided to go pick up their 2008 EP, Blood Metal (it’s available on iTunes). Achren plays what they call “blood metal”, and I thought that was an apt description for more than one reason.
At Bloodstock-Open-Air 2010, the band played the New Blood Stage (see, lots of blood references already) and won a prize that got them an invitation to perform at the 2011 Wacken-Open-Air festival on the Metal Battle stage. So, that tells you something — and I’ll tell you the rest.
I listened to the first song on Blood Metal, called “Impaled”. And then I listened to the second song, “Shock & Awe”. And then I just said, what the fuck, and listened to the next two songs, throwing my self-made MISCELLANY rules to the four winds.
Listening to Achren was like being transported back to Florida or Sweden or New York in the days when death metal was crawling from the womb and blinking in the light. There’s nothing fancy about the music, but it feels . . . felt . . . from the heart, or whatever organ(s) produce the kind of death metal that makes other music seem gutless by comparison.
It sounds very much like what you’d hear in a pub or a basement or a backyard or on a tape passed from hand to hand in about 1990, but at the same time it sounds fresh and invigorated: garage-band production that bursts with punk-rock drum rhythms, bone-saw tremolo and chug guitar, spliced vocals consisting of gutturals and flash-fired shrieking, phosphorus guitar solos, and a knack for commanding headbang compulsion.
Archen takes the tropes of first-wave death metal, injects some no-limits thrash or borderline grindcore, and makes the result their very own, churning out music that’s alive and vicious and all kinds of fucking fun. The music reminded me of vintage Morbid Angel and a not-quite-so-chainsaw-heavy Dismember, with maybe a dash of Napalm Death. Achren will give you a Glasgow kiss and then buy you a pint or six after you’ve come back to consciousness. It’s fucking raw, unpretentious, working man’s death metal. It was a very good start to this MISCELLANY installment. Check out this track:
We’ve read that the band filmed their whole Bloodstock-Open-Air set for release on DVD sometime early this year, and their as-yet untitled debut album is now complete and ready for a spring release. Can’t fucking wait.
To satisfy the impatient, the band have also made a new song called “Blood Soaked Banner” available for download at this location. It’s got a much more pronounced black-metal vibe than what I heard on the EP, showing another dimension to this band, and it’s also very strong. For more info about Achren and to check out more songs, here’s their ReverbNation widget:
GIANT OF THE MOUNTAIN
Giant of the Mountain is a threesome from Texas consisting of Cody Daniels on vocals, his wife Randi on drums, and Chris Dearing on bass. Cody contacted us by e-mail with an invitation to check out their 3-song EP, which was released to an unsuspecting public on December 31, 2010.
I decided to check out the music as part of this MISCELLANY post partly because these folks are from my old home state (and more specifically, the Dallas area), and partly because within the last week or two I’d seen their name mentioned in positive terms on both The Number of the Blog and Metal Sucks.
I listened to the first song on the EP, called “Sithis”. And then, for the second time in a row, I cheated on the MISCELLANY rules and listened to the other two.
The music reminded me of the feeling I got from Achren — not the musical style, but the feel of something that reveals recognizable influences, but is still raw, original, very heart-felt — and packed with some eye-popping surprises. “Sithis” is a good example. It slithers like a giant conqueror worm, rolling and grinding and pounding — and then the tempo shifts and there’s a blast of wickedly inventive guitar mayhem. The vocals dive into the abyss and then vault into raspy-scream territory and then dive again, and somewhere there’s even a few bars of clean singing. And by the end of it, I was thinking about Mastodon.
“Chaos That Crawls” is an apt title for the second song. It lumbers ahead with a dark, sludgy grind, but sparkles with more crazy guitar antics without ever losing that oppressive air of menace. And then, as in “Slithis”, there’s a startling tempo shift and more riveting and unexpected fretwork, blazing and swirling and technical, and all that is matched by some inventive drumming, too.
“The Great Expansion of Death” is yet another stylistic jolt — dissonant stoner sludge at the outset; then dropping into chaotic freefall as the pacing accelerates and the instrumental work becomes almost experimental in its raucousness; the vocals turn clean as they give voice to a chorus that’s got a Scandinavian folk-metal feel to it; and then the riffing jumps forward in a gallop with bursts of tech-death flourish.
The production is rough and rugged, with even more of a garage-studio sound than Achren’s EP, but it suits the music. It makes you feel like you’re present at the birth of something new, something that in time will grow into . . . something else that may be altogether different. With this new genre-bending EP, Giant of the Mountain have given us a taste of extravagant talent and more than enough reason to wait and watch where this Texas threesome go next. Check this out:
You can download Giant of the Mountain’s 3-song EP for free at this location.