(DGR has been pawing through great piles of new and forthcoming releases and has sifted out five of them especially deserving of praise.)
It has been a little bit since we’ve gotten a chance to do one of these — the chance to send me ping-ponging across the internet in a mad quest for new music, doing the equivelant of drunkenly stumbling into a band’s house after-hours, pulling up a chair, kicking my feet up on their table, and going, “So, tell me about yourself,” like I’m the leading authority on all things metal.
Sometimes, these Sifting articles tend to be built organically. At other times they’re built out of sheer desperation — a sense of “Oh god, I need to talk about this to some people now,” as we come across music. This one is a tad bit different, as it was brought on like most fun things in life, out of me opening my idiot mouth and promptly learning another lesson as to why, if I’m ever tempted to say anything, just to let it slide.
I’ve been part of the working world for ten years now, no longer a young’un by any means, but still stupid enough to occasionally slip up. You’d think by now I’d remember the #1 lesson of any workforce, which is to never, ever, EVER inform your boss of how much work you have left, especially when you’re getting to the downslope of your work pile. I made this mistake recently, gleefully informing my superiors that after I had done a certain number of reviews, I’d be in a holding pattern since most of the stuff that was coming out was spoken for — so really, that at the end of a certain week I’d be done for a bit.
Which, of course, led to me returning to the work desk the next day and finding a gigantic stack of promos and e-mail requests from groups that we just hadn’t had the time to get around to. Usually, they get filtered, but this time they lay in front of me with a gigantic note that read “Good luck, fucker” on it. So instead of merely sifting this week, I am drowning in material now. Stuff that I want to get out there and stuff that we’ve unfortunately back-burnered or let fly under my radar. So now, let me make it right to you, our readers, by proceeding to dump five recommendations into your laps to enjoy.
Also, the above block of paragraphs may or may not be bullshit. I may have never actually spoken to the man who runs this site, ever, and this entire thing may be my fault, slowly building up over the course of a few months as I came across bands… maybe.
MORO MORO LAND
In my year-end roundup of music that I enjoyed, posted late last year, I actually allowed an EP to penetrate the ranks of albums — which is something I don’t normally do, as I like to seperate those out and give them their own bit of spotlight. But this was one of those times where I felt like the music on that EP was so concentratedly good that I just had to get it out there. Moro Moro Land may be one of those bands slated to accomplish this in 2015, as this Russian group have pulled off the feat of concentrating fury down into four songs and a cover.
It’s not often that I judge music by whether it can cause my compatriots to have violent headbanging fits, but Through is one of those EPs that I guaranteed was going to do that. So of course I chose to test it out whilst we were driving on a freeway. Through is a noisy, violent, and brash release that veers hard into the punk realm but still keeps its roots firmly planted in the dramatics of heavy metal. It is at times hardcore — with some two-step bits popping up from time to time, but Moro Moro Land also bury just as much of their music under an impenetrable layer of muck and sludge.
The melodies on this disc are very earthen and low-tuned and yet they often give way to blast-beat-fueled sections — one of which, the main part of “New Skin”, is so prone to getting stuck in my head that I often forget that the song actually languidly crawls for its opening minute or so.
In a fun bit of serendipity the band also have managed to put Through out on a perfectly named label, that of Broken Limbs, which I feel matches my condition after listening to this disc. The song “If You Stand And Fight” is one of the hardest-hitting songs I’ve come across this year and one that has just seemed to line up perfectly with how my year has been going.
The group end Through on a cover of Nirvana’s “Something In The Way” — which is among their slate of songs that easily translates over into metal, though Nirvana have quite a few that do so. Moro Moro Land take an already slow and depressing song and turn it into a howling anguish that matches most of the fury contained on Through. It’s not the perfect ender, but it is a fantastic bonus to an already sandpaper-esque grinding of your face in the form of sound.
I know that I have hinted at this situation from time to time, but I feel like for the past few years technical death metal, deathcore, and brutal death have all slowly been converging upon each other into one gigantic beast that at times is hard to define and can also be a little faceless. Whilst “gigantic” and “faceless” may be awesome for an elder god in a horror book, it doesn’t quite work so well on the musical front. I don’t think we’ve reached that point yet, but I do know that we’re edging closer and closer — which has led to bands having to do some interesting dances around that line, because I think even they have begun to realize just how sort of amorphous the genre has become.
Of course, for a long time metal has been mixing and matching genres into horrifying soups, and lately that penchant has resulted in some frighteningly hyper-technical bands. These are groups who, for as young as they are, scare the everliving hell out of me when it comes to sheer instrumentation, because everything they’re doing sounds so complicated on “the war against the ever-impressive wall of notes” front. If they went with the occasional odd time-signatures, I think some of these groups would be veering hard into a pretty impressive form of prog-death.
Serpentspire are one of these young bands who are dancing on that fine line that I mention, having formed in 2013 in Spokane, WA. As an ignorant, piece-of-garbage out-of-stater, I must fully own up to knowing very little about Spokane, as my travels to Washington have tended to keep me pretty distant from it. It does however, feature frequently on the TV show Cops — as has my lovely abode of Sacramento, California — so in that sense I guess the cities are a weird sort of fraternal twins.
Serpentspire hit damned hard with their early-July release The Cosmic Throne, which has been slowly making circles around the web. It’s a science-fiction-inspired EP that wears its heart directly on its sleeve (that heart with a note on it basically screaming, “SPAAAAAAAAAAACE”) — considering you have song titles like “The World Eater Approaches” (itself a vicious number of finger-contorting guitar riffs and terrifyingly fast blasting that descends into near-slam brutality) and “Nostromo” (which has the obvious Alien and Aliens homage present within its sound).
I absolutely understand why this EP has been making the rounds, because The Cosmic Throne is a stunning release from the tech-death front. It does, however, suffer a bit from the general malaise I was referencing above. It’s not lazy music, but it does at times descend into wormy sections that can have you getting lost in its sound, even within a twenty-minute run time. All the songs stand super-strong on their own, with the title track’s run of yelling in the middle being a personal favorite moment, but they start to suffer from a lack of distinction in an overall run-through.
This is the first release by the Serpentspire gentlemen, though, and I have full faith that they have the ability to kill it in future song-writing endeavors. The sounds they’re putting out already are almost all-killer, and for a group with only two years of life so far, already equaling some of their compatriots in this vein — which means that bands of their caliber should keep an eye on what they do in the future, because they could be a force that you do not want to reckon with.
So far in this Sifting article we’ve done brooding, and we have done technical. How would you feel if we did something that was, by comparison, remarkably straightforward?
Hollow World are an Australian band who hail from Melbourne and whose genres bounce between melodeath, death metal, and just a smattering of -core sounds to round things up. Basically, Hollow World are the perfect confluence of the modern scene and they are nearing the release of an EP that will be out July 31st known as The Wrath Kept Within. I actually discovered these guys thanks to them touring with Orpheus Omega — whom you may remember as allowing us to host a stream of their new album on this very site.
So far, Hollow World have released three songs from their upcoming EP: the title track ; “Silence” — which was put out in September 2014; and “Valley Of Ghelgath”. All three songs are shrieking banshees of super-fast guitar playing and furious one-two drumming and relentless blasts. Hollow World have been around since 2012/2013, and Wrath Kept Within marks their second EP, the first being one entitled Beneath The Frozen Sky, which has been available for “name your own price” on Bandcamp for a bit now.
With only a few days to release, we’re keeping an eye on Wrath Kept Within — if not just to see if the two songs that they haven’t released (“Scion Of Fire” and “Misery”) match up with the quality of “Silence”, “Wrath Kept Within”, and “Valley…”.
My ignorance of the state of Washington continues unabated. I’m starting to think that we’ve got a lovely little coincidence going with this edition of Sifting, as two of the bands featured so far hail from the lovely state. We’re actually going to be traveling back to the year 2014 as well when it comes to this bit of our Sifting trip.
Zan have been around for a bit and hail from Richland, WA. They play a frenetic style of death and grind that is about as spastic as it comes. The group released an album entitled √-1 last year. We actually discovered these guys via an e-mail from them, although a couple of our authors had heard the name before. I’ve searched up and down yet haven’t come across a mention of them on the site — which I owe in part to our Search bar being a bit of a mess. But the long and short of it is that you should really listen to Zan, as these gentlemen are an absolute bulldozer of sound.
At first, things start out relatively normal for the band, but the group’s preference for chainsaw guitars and violent songwriting quickly surfaces, as the music seems to throw itself across the length of √-1 with an almost reckless abandon. The guitar riffs on this disc are at times otherworldly and alien, with the drumming seeming to run at a different tempo than the rest of the band at moments. Mostly, it feels like they spent much of their time throwing their instruments around, and if it lined up, then fantastic — and if not then, it will be another moment of the disc where the drumming sounds like a pneumatic hammer and everybody is screaming over it.
Zan travel a realm similar to two bands we’ve written about before, Ontogeny and Anomalous, as they also take the “fling instruments down the stairs and create chaotic death metal” method. It’s an interesting approach and one that can be as approachable as it is abrasive — the title song. for instance, is just 29 seconds of buzzing noise that drops into a maddening headbanger known as “The Drift”. But part of the reason why you come to music like this is so it can grind you to dust, and Zan manage to accomplish that objective easily.
Immortal Bird are a name and a band that you’ve likely crossed paths with a lot recently, and there’s damned good reason for that. In their recently released EP Empress/Abscess, this Chicago-based band have put to disc one of the most explosively angry collections of music you can find. It’s fury in the form of a hand grenade detonating.
I will fully own up to never having had a band like Immortal Bird shoved down my throat quite like I have with this one, but when I’m practically being yelled at from all quarters that I’m going to love something and that I should listen to it, I pretty much have to, right?
Empress/Abcsess is the follow-up release to a December 2013 noise bath known as Akrasia, and both albums are some of the most searing and teeth-baring bits of death/grind/black metal hybrids out there among newer bands. The group’s biography pitches them as being “the result of choosing rage over sadness”, and they absolutely nail it on that mark. It’s a sound that I wish more bands would approach, as most groups are consistently angry but few express it like a wounded animal in a corner lashing out against the world. Immortal Bird absolutely devastate in that regard. You’re pretty much guaranteed to be a charred skeleton by the end of “Neoplastic” alone, and the grooves offered by the opening of “Saprophyte” offer very little solace or escape.
Part of the reason why I chose Immortal Bird and Moro Moro Land to respectively close and open this Sifting article is that I think both EPs have the ability to just claw away at you. Both are vicious, biting releases that leave you a boiling mass of rage. So much of metal is pitched as a method of catharsis, but neither of these releases is that; they’re long-simmering explosions. Sometimes you just need music to lash out to, and likewise, that lashes out at you, and I have found Empress/Abscess to be one of those discs that feeds both needs very well.