In this post I’m reviewing two very different EPs that I discovered only in the last few days but have enjoyed immensely — and by sheer coincidence both bands happen to be based in the place of my birth, Austin, Texas.
Hinayana is the solo project of an Austin musician named Casey Hurd, and Endless is the name of the band’s first demo (released in August 2014). It doesn’t sound like a first stab at creativity, but more like the confident and well-crafted output of a mature band hitting its stride.
The music is a doom-influenced outpouring of melodic death metal, with iron at its core and streamers of beautiful melody swirling around it like phosphorescent creatures in a black, heaving sea. The melodies are moving and memorable, and as the EP progresses, Hurd pitches the intensity in a cycle that ebbs and flows like tides. Big groaning riffs are balanced by rippling lead guitar motifs that really shine. Staggering guitar and bass jabs trade places with the soft pulse of isolated notes. Astral keyboard waves glimmer above dismantling doom chords. The melancholy music sinks like weighted corpses in the deep, yet rises up like a blazing sunrise — the agony and the ecstasy. Through it all, Hurd’s cavernous roars deepen the songs’ wrenching pall of magnificent gloom.
Okay, maybe I’m getting carried away with these attempts at poetry, but that’s the effect this emotionally powerful EP has had on me. I used to think Europeans had a near-monopoly on this style of bleak but beautiful heaviness, but Hinayana stands shoulder-to-shoulder with our friends across the Atlantic. Wonderful songwriting, wonderful execution, wonderful EP. I don’t know why it took me so long to find it, but I’m so glad I finally did.
Endless is a “name your price” download on Bandcamp.
Last July another band from my old hometown of Austin named Expander self-released their debut EP, a six-track collection entitled Laws of Power. I discovered it because Caligari Records recently announced that they would be bringing out the EP on cassette, with new artwork (above) by the awesome Alexander L Brown (BNB Illustrations). The combination of Caligari and Brown sent me on my way to the music, which is streaming on Bandcamp, and although I probably should have waited for the cassette release before writing about it, I decided to strike while the iron was hot in my head.
And yeah, this music is hot as hell — a marauding, head-wrecking melange of punk and metal with vicious, maniacal vocal venom capable of stripping skin from bone. The songs are virally infectious in addition to being as nasty as famished wolverines, and the production quality gives the sound the kind of raw, gritty abrasiveness it really needs. Whether they’re thrashing or stomping or lurching in a drunken stagger, Expander are full of fire and brimstone. You get this stench in your nostrils, and it’s hard to get it out — but who the fuck would want to?