SEEN AND HEARD: WORSEN, RAT KING, PRIMEVAL WELL, YGG, HAND OF THE TRIBE
Christmas Day and the day after are usually quiet ones in the spheres of activity of which NCS is a part. The typical flood of press releases dwindles to a trickle, most other metal blogs are hibernating, and few bands or labels release new music. Eyes are elsewhere, many of them probably closed altogether.
However, I can’t resist taking advantage of the relative peace to check out odds and ends I’ve been waiting to explore, or have recently noticed for the first time. I guess it’s obvious that I can’t resist, given how much new music I’ve already thrown at you during this holiday week — but here’s more (don’t duck!):
I could have sworn I had written something about Worsen’s 2019 debut album Cursed To Witness Life, but can find no evidence of it. Add that to the list of excellent 2019 releases I’ve shamefully neglected. If you haven’t already sampled what that album has to offer, and you enjoy black metal, you should go here and give it a shot. As a couple of commenters wrote on that Bandcamp page I just linked you to: “Cold as hell, awesome melodies and in your face riffs”; “Haunting, beautiful, dark and utterly mesmerizing.”
What reminded me of Cursed To Witness Life was a new single that Worsen released on December 24th to commemorate the birthday, not of Jesus, but of Lemmy Kilmister, at whose altar many of us pray more often than the other guy’s. It’s a cover of Motörhead’s “Killed By Death”, and it’s fucking great.
Photo by Gabe Jaklik
Previously, Worsen was the solo project of North Carolina vocalist and musician Rick Contes, but I’ve seen on Worsen’s FB page (and you can see above) that he has recruited a full line-up and intends to perform live. I’m not sure whether his new bandmates participated in the recording of this new single. But to him, and to them if they did, I’m damned grateful to have this tremendous cover of one of the greatest rock anthems ever written. It made my Christmas Eve.
Worsen do put their own spin on the song, without radically changing it (which would be a mortal sin). They make it that little bit heavier and meaner — the vocals are goddamned scorching — and the soloing will get your hormones pumping, which is basically what this song is all about to begin with.
(I’ve included the video for the original along with Worsen’s take on the song.)
On May 1st, 2015, I caught a show at Seattle’s Funhouse that stuck in my memory to this very day. The show was organized around a tour by Arizona’s Lago and included direct support by Seattle’s Rhine. I was familiar with the recorded work of both those bands, but had never seen either group on stage, and both of them delivered fantastic live performances (as I wrote here). But I had no familiarity at all with the band who opened the show, another Seattle-area group named Rat King. They turned out to be a big and very welcome surprise.
As I later learned, two of the three members of Rat King — guitarist/vocalist Ricardo Racines and bassist/vocalist Daniel Racines — were originally from Equador and hadn’t been in Seattle that long. That night at Funhouse might have been their first show, or at least one of the earliest. Since then, they’ve continued to perform live, getting even better. They released a debut album (Garbage Island) in 2016, and now their second one — Vicious Inhumanity (which also features drummer Carlos Delgado) — is set for release on January 17th by Within the Mind Records.
“Experimental death/grind” is the way Rat King describe their evolving music nowadays, and the first single from the new album, “Borratanico“, lives up to that description. The song has a rough, raw, and obliterating quality, with a massive, choking, HM-2-level guitar tone that overwhelms the senses and a full-throttle drum attack that will punch your pulse like a trigger on a tactical nuke. But the high-speed, brute-force pulverization of the attack, and the barbarity of the vocals, are accompanied by razor-sharp tempo shifts and long braying chords that congeal the blood.
It’s way too short, which is not intended as a song-writing criticism, just a sign of hunger for more of what Rat King are up to. More plesae, and soon!
P.S. Well, there already is more and I just didn’t see it! Below I’ve added a stream of a second song, “Chaleco De Billetes” — do yourself a favor and listen to it!
P.P.S. Daniel Racines is a man of many talents — it was he who created both the cover art for Vicious Inhumanity and the video for the song.
One more time (and clearly it won’t be the last), I owe thanks to Rennie (starkweather) for turning me on to a band I might never have discovered on my own. The band is Primeval Well from Nashville, and although I have some thoughts of my own about the music on their self-titled debut album (released on December 4th by Red River Family Records) I think I should start by sharing Rennie’s, because that’s what hooked me before hearing a single note:
“…Jute Gyte, Blut Aus Nord meet the Allman Bros at the crossroads. Take the microtonal dissonance of JuteGyte and the more disorienting Blut Aus Nord or Reverence assaults and drop it into a down-south gothic setting to emerge with one of the more audacious debuts to come along in some time. The acoustic work on display is rootsy folk in keeping with Wovenhand/16 horsepower and Allman Bros. The disparate clash of styles is intelligently meshed together without sounding forced or contrived and is rather brilliant”
There’s a fair chance that I would have checked this out even if the only name mentioned had been the Allman Brothers, but to see that name in the same sentence as Jute Gyte and Blut Aus Nord made the impulse irresistible. What in the hell would this sound like?
As Rennie forecast to me, “The first track is an intro with echoes of banjo, lap steel…setting you up for the crossroads journey. Second song takes its sweet time building and once vocals are introduced, forget about it.”
That’s all true. The backwoods ambience of the opener “The Decayed Soldier (Non Terrenum Memoriae)” is unmistakable but spooky, cloaked in fog, while the second track, “Forgotten, Forlorn, Forsaken”, begins in a black metal gale — but there comes the banjo again, as a bridge to the real conflagration (the banjo and acoustic guitar reappear throughout the album). The song becomes a fury of crazed riffing, maniacal drumming, and lunatic vocals. Yet the song pitches into the territory of old Appalachian, Ozark, and Central Texas fiddle music — or really, any part of rural Americana east of the Rockies.
That second song has the demon swing in it, as well as the kind of clean vocals that sound like people speaking in tongues at a tent revival, and calling back to old country music spawned by gospel revivals in white churches. The mixture of that with the blasting drums and searing, dervish-like riffs of black metal is astonishing. It’s a kind of religious and anti-religious ecstasy all at once. And that’s just the second song.
From there, the music continues to be a remarkable amalgam of sounds. Primeval Well make you understand what black metal would have sounded like if it had originated along the Mason-Dixon line in America or in the Appalachian mountains, instead of Norway. It swirls and spins, it dances and cavorts, it soars to grandiose heights of sheer ebullience, it takes us under sodden wisteria beneath crescent moons. It unleashes hellfire and black magic, lunacy and seizures, the savage delight found by lean, hard-living people who were given nothing by anyone and found their own pleasures in the devil’s dream, and the woozy somnambulance brought about by corn liquor from the still.
I’ll really get carried away with my own words if I don’t stop, if I haven’t already lost my mind. It’s that kind of album — a true rarity of conception and execution. As Rennie wrote to me, this should garner at least as much hype as Zeal and Ardor did. It has different cultural roots, of course, but when you hear it you’ll understand why Z&A might come to mind, though Primeval Well‘s achievement is superior.
Unless you’re arriving at our site for the first time it’s quite obvious that Rennie isn’t the only person who sends me lots of recommendations about new music (usually the kind of music that doesn’t show up in our in-box via a press release). Another one is a Serbian acquaintance, Miloš, and he’s how I found out about this next track, which appeared just a couple of days ago.
“The Last Scald” is a long song — more than 11 minutes — and it’s the title track to an album by the Ukrainian trio YGG that will be released by Ashen Dominion in early 2020.This new album follows YGG’s first one (self-titled) by almost nine years.
The song here is a slow build, and it works so well. Initially, the methodical drum rhythm and heavy bass line will make your head nod in stately fashion, while the piercing riff shoots spurts of electricity and despair through the blood stream. As that riff loops along, with the rhythm section growing more animated beneath it, it extends its claws around your throat, very hard to shake. The anguish in the music is unmistakable, but the scalding (no pun intended) desperation of the vocals is if anything even more intense.
The riffing eventually becomes much more feverish, the drumming more frantic, the bass more of a rapidly vibrating rumble. But man, none of that detracts from the dominance of the vocals, which are transfixing. Though I will say that the beat of the song is incredibly strong, sometimes hooking into a post-punk rhythm. The bass plays the kind of strong role that it played in funk and soul songs, though I don’t mean to suggest that anyone would call this song funk or soul. And I also don’t mean to detract from the riffing — because the sparkling, scintillating guitar sound sends the song into the stratosphere in the closing minute and a half.
Seriously, this track is goddamned spectacular. It doesn’t go where you might think it will go, and becomes a hybrid of genre influences that spins the higher faculties of the mind at the same time as it embraces the reptile brain and takes it on a lustful, thrusting dance.
P.S. I don’t know if the artwork above is for just the single or the album as a whole. Either way, it’s great, though I haven’t found the artist’s name yet.
HAND OF THE TRIBE
And now for something completely different…
Well, maybe not so different if you listen to hard rock, but it’s quite different from the kinds of music I usually include in these round-ups. To be honest, I’m not sure I would have included the song at all (though I do enjoy it) except for the animated video that accompanies it. On the other hand, as remarkable as the video is, it wouldn’t have the same impact without the music. They go well together.
And the video ends with a message that gives greater weight to both the song and the visuals. I’m including the band’s statement about that message after the video below — and I’m putting it there, instead of here, because I think it might be better for you to see the video without knowing what it’s really about.
The song is a new single named “Moonwalk” by the Boston band Hand of the Tribe, and the video (masterfully produced and directed by Vincent Marcone) was released on Thanksgiving Day. I won’t comment further about the surrealistic video, because I think trying to pin it down in words would sap it of some of its magic.
As for the song, it’s a beautiful blend of head-moving rhythms and gleaming guitar melody, finely crafted and beautifully nuanced vocals, pulse-punching grooves and moody arpeggios. It sent me back in time, made me think of Lit, Soul Asylum, and a few other indie rock bands from the ’90s whose names I can’t pull out of my head, but without really sounding exactly like any of them.
(Grant Skelton made me aware of this video, and it was a great Christmas prsent.)
STATEMENT BY HAND OF THE TRIBE ABOUT “MOONWALK”:
“This collaboration took shape after reading about one of the most toxic landscapes in the world, a digital landfill in Africa known as Agbogbloshie. We asked ourselves some really tough questions about the way we discard of Electronic Waste, and how this disposal impacts human beings and the planet.
“In short – ‘MOONWALK’ is a modern day fairytale about a ‘burner boy’ in Ghana who is confronted by a strange kind of spirit animal as he harvests copper from electronic waste. He witnesses the owl – ARC – render his wings useless because of the weight of the living man’s carelessness. It is a stark metaphor for what is to come if we don’t confront the problem. We hope the making of this masterful film will help convey that message.”