(Welcome back Louisville-based music writer Austin Weber with some thoughts about a diverse array of artists and albums from 2012 that he missed in his year-end list for NCS. Might be some new discoveries in here for you, too.)
Last year there were a few bands who released absolutely stunning albums that even I forgot about….until now.
Hivesmasher– Gutter Choir
Pig Destroyer’s Book Burner was rightly hyped as grind album of the year, and while I loved the hell out of it, Hivesmasher does something very different for me. Theirs is a grimey, nastier kind of grind, similar to the utterly hopeless filth Crowpath used to conjure up.
This is on a whole other level, better written and better played than most who reside within the hyper-focus on speed and punk atittude to cover up weak songwriting and poor instrumental capability. The tropes that now consume the genre have led me to try and find those groups who are trying to elevate grindcore instead of just being a barrage of (albeit awesome) sound.
Hivesmasher knocked me on my ass from the first track, which made abundantly clear how good these guys are.
Opener “Bye Bye Baby” deceives right from the start, delivering some simple punk chords before the band go right for the jugular, assaulting the listener with ferocious drumming amidst a caustic death metal exploration of destruction. Follow-up track “Vomitouch” buzzes with a Converge feel to the intro before trapping you in a sickening groove that follows with a call and response vocal exorcism of rage.
Hivesmasher continue showing their chameleon-like mastery, switching between sounding like a number of different groups on “Can of Awesometism,” which adopts a Red Chord vibe stripped to its core and overdosing on sludge.
Gutter Choir is a sonic canvas of total misanthropy designed to swiftly crush your head with wonderment and terror. Hivesmasher go to some very interesting places on cuts that take grind to epic heights such as “Vulture Assasin,” “Lust In Creation’s Wake”, and “Strangled Beings and Vice Versa,” among others.
The production is another high point, the kind you would hear on a Sanford Parker or Kurt Ballou record. Everything sounds extremely tight, but not ridiculously modern. Of special note, Tim Brault’s drumming here is easily some of the best I’ve ever heard from a grind drummer. He reminds me of premier drummers like Erik Hall from Crowpath, Dave Witte, and Danny Walker. Tyler Kingsland and Julius Hayden are both really good guitarists, and they bring a creative force to their discipline, constantly playing something different in an ADD-rattled manner.
Hivesmasher write in a dense, intricate way that reminds me of Uphill Battle, definitely Pig Destroyer, and Discordance Axis. Gutter Choir is fucking hostile; few bands wield vitriol in such a memorable way as they do. Hivesmasher’s excellent debut album is also on Bandcamp and is worth your time and money.
Perhaps– Volume One
Perhaps Perhaps aren’t metal, but they play complex, experimental, and forward-thinking music, which are qualities that I find myself and other metalheads cherish in “out there” music across a variety of genres. Perhaps have their toes in so many styles, you really can’t say exactly what they are, but I’ll take a stab at it.
To me, they mix-match post-rock and math-rock with regular rock-‘n’-roll and bits of punk and blues into a dense, wonderful grab-bag from which they draw expertly. This framework is then orchestrated into a dense soundscape aided by string arrangements and the inclusion of viola, cello, sax, violin, and trumpet.
This trio is clearly focused on making music that twists and turns in a labyrinth-like way. Bass player Jim Haney, who composes their music and drew the awesome artwork, plays as a great foil to the fluid, rhythmic drumming of Don Taylor and the ever-shifting guitar work of Sean McDermott.
I personally have few qualms about digital recordings vs analog, save for the obvious argument that the loudness wars have left a legacy of often-times clipped audio due to the higher volumes. That being said, Volume One greatly benefits from being recorded live on analog in a basement studio. The production possess a lot of warmth with small bits of distortion that are crisp and organic, unlike anything I’ve recently heard.
Another prominent highlight is the elasticity of Volume One. At times the music feels loose and jam-like, while at others densely orchestrated. Perhaps shift effortlessly to new ideas and glide through a nearly 40-minute track with the skill of a 70’s prog band fighting a modern post-rock aesthetic into a new musical breakthrough. Perhaps don’t sound like anything else I’ve heard; perhaps this was on purpose, perhaps they are just really out-there eclectic dudes. Either way, the music they’ve dreamed up on Volume One insists on being heard.
Diskord were a very late listen for me, courtesy of the great Doug Moore (Pyrrhon), whose article, “2012 Metal Mulligans: Albums We Slept On” led me to this amazing group from Norway. Dystopics is a clusterfuck of Gorguts-meets-Atheist rhythms and aggression done in an old-school-meets-new-school manner.
In a way, their strange grooves and spastic transitions remind me of Vuvr, an odd band from the Czech Republic who attempted a similar concept of old-school death metal with ridiculous bass playing and jazzy chops. Their riffs are chock full of Autopsy and Gorguts-like ideas along with Immolation-inspired riffing, an awesome confection that few have thought to imitate and that helps lend an evil air to the music.
Shards of black metal and a smattering of doom appear every so often, adding another edge to Diskord’s music.The inclusion of (obviously) Immolation-inspired riffs lends an evil veneer to their music that, when mixed with their bizarre, off-kilter, skronky moments, leaves you feeling completely empty, as if stuck behind an event horizon, unable to escape from being sucked into the madness.
All members perform vocals, whose styles range from a wicked bark/growl to old-school screams that go very black metal, which make up a large amount of the vocals and help give the album a different feel. The tightness of their group chemistry and combined playing leads to near Behold…The Arctopus levels, where instruments collide off each other’s weight.
This is hard to classify, as it’s avante-garde-filtered and technically played, but no one label can truly be applied to it. Sure, it’s technically performed death metal, but not technical death metal the way people throw that tag around. Guitarist Håvard updates old riffing within a modern, chaotic songwriting context, infusing these songs with an unholy aura that writhes unpredictably. This outpouring of evil is aided by the frenetic, beautiful, bizarre bass playing of Eyvind, which gladly gets a good share of the mix. Both are united by the impressive drumming of Hans Jørgen.
Regardless of what comes out this year, I will be jamming Dystopics a lot; in retrospect. it’s my favorite death metal album from last year. That’s saying a lot considering how much I loved Incurso and a multitude of other death metal records. They also have a debut entitled Doomscapes to check out, which can be found on iTunes along with Dystopics.
Pavor is one of the few groups who sound sonically similar in their approach, but they aren’t usually as spastic. If you haven’t heard of them, they are super-kvlt and kick ridiculous amounts of ass. Here’s a song from youtube:
Two from Vuvr as well. One is a high-quality live video from their death metal oriented demo. The other is from their calmer, jazzier debut Pilgrimage.
II II II– A Conundrum On My Coffee Table
If Alcest was able to deconstruct black metal into something damn close to post-rock, who’s to say someone couldn’t do a similar switch and pioneer another new style of accessible heavy music? The cleanly sung djent craze is what I like least about the djent wave, so it’s good to hear a completely fresh take on groove-based songwriting that ends up sounding like rock even though it’s rooted in metal. II II II take mathcore, jazz, and djent and form a sly, experimental rock band.
Their style makes more sense when you realize that both their drummer and guitarist were members of Tangaroa, the now-defunct UK mathcore/groove band who were also on to a similiar sonic progression that sounded like SikTh, but were far more ferocious. Metal gone pop/rock for sure, but II II II are the rare group who have progressed in a new way; they are an offshoot of what’s currently going on, but their take is more honest.
What II II II deliver is built on a backbone of polyrhythmic grooves colliding with math-rock, lots of funky bass, and supplements of weird, non-cheesy rock singing/shouting/crooning. The music on Conundrum On My Coffee Table meanders with a relaxed, offbeat jazz sensibility illuminated in eccentricity, the vibe of which is hard to pinpoint. In theory this sounds like a fucking mess, but it triumphs because it’s authentic and doesn’t sound forced or silly.
Things get metal, but very sparingly, with the climax of “HITPTYGWDIYL”. It’s the only really heavy part, save for the brooding barks that litter the dreary “No Condition” and the huge build-up halfway into “Shingles.”
This came late to me because while I knew through Tangaroa’s Facebook that it came out last year, I completely forgot until a few days ago. I’d gladly classify the effects on one’s mind as Seinfeldjent-Bunglitis, a new condition their bastardized music has spawned.
Here’s a Tangoroa song if you haven’t heard of them.